Thursday, August 25, 2016

Its Not the Heat - It's the Climate Change

Again - we are well past the tipping point here.  Climate Change is occurring and we need to prepare for it.  In multiple ways with great haste!
Flooding is often the most visible impact, for a couple of reasons.  First it is slow.  Extra tornadoes or massive Hurricanes (like the 3 "1,000 year events" in SE Asia) are hard to film and pay attention to.  But floods, in many areas, are slow motion disasters that take a long time to clean up. And they leave disaster porn pictures. Second, we have historical information to note how often these types of floods might happen.  And the news isn't good.

Other examples of climate change are occurring outside of our easy notice: ice pack melting, forest fires greatly increasing in intensity and frequency, the hottest month in the history of written records (July 2016).
But worse will come and we must be prepared.

Here are the top things our government (the epitome of uselessness) should get ready for.

1. Drought.  Yes, drought.  While the impact on homes and cities ruined by floods are terrible, as long as the country has fresh water and food, it is a humanitarian problem we can fix.  But drought, particularly in the crop growing regions of the United States, is not something that is easily fixable.  Much of our most productive land is primarily watered by rain.  Rain is no longer predictable on reliable as it has always been.  It might seem odd in years of massive massive floods in some areas, but other areas have experienced massive droughts that destroyed crops (a few years ago in Texas, Georgia and Indiana). We have to figure out how to replenish our water supplies and irrigate intelligently everywhere, not just the Southwest. (Internationally - this same type of extra-ordinary drought has occurred in the Russian / Ukrainian bread basket and in Australia)

2. Massive Migration.  Internally, inside the United States, migration has always occurred - with Climate Change it could speed up quickly.  Hurricane Katrina sent a million people fleeing New Orleans, and more than 1/2 stayed away.  As coastal Florida, parts of Virginia and New Jersey succumb to a combination of high tide flooding and storms, millions more might move. 
- OUTSIDE the United States, expect wars to occur over migration.  Much of the Middle East is expected to be uninhabitable in a few decades (summer temps of over 130F).  Bangladesh and multiple island nations will be underwater. India, which supports well over a billion people on a wet / dry climate routine is finding that the "routine" is failing. The Sahel in Africa is moving from productive land to desert.  "Thousand year" flooding is ruining homes and farmland in Europe from England to the Balkans.  This will lead to desperate people. Imagine the Syrian refugees, only with government backing.

3. Fresh Water. Israel and Kuwait have moved most quickly on this issue, but continental west coast cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, CapeTown, Santiago and Perth as well as much of the Mediterranean cities need to move forward with securing adequate water as well. Desalinization makes economic sense for urban areas.  There are some great advances where the city sit on the ocean (or Mediterranean Sea). Water will be more expensive from the ocean, but the demand for land based resources to go to farming will be to great to ignore.

Finally: Watch for Unexpected Triggers.
The climate is too complex for modeling at this point.  Government(s) need to be on the look-out for triggers of things we don't expect and then respond
  • Take the Zika virus. The mosquitos that transmit Zika are spreading due to climate change.  This isn't something that was easily modeled (although we did model Dengue fever).  
  • Or the spread of Pine Beatles that destroyed much of our western pine forests and made forest fires so much worse. They spread due to warm winters in the western mountains. Scientist expected warmer winters with climate change, but didn't expect the rise of a destructive insect on top of that.
  • Take a look at the ski resorts in the Alps and Western US that are going bankrupt because there is no snow or it goes very very late. NOT for the sake of the ski resorts, but look at the underlying system.  The snowpack isn't just used to ski, it is an early indicator of fresh water availability - that snow melts and is almost always used as freshwater by people.

Yes a bunch of rain sucks and makes news, but that is often recoverable. We need to get ready for those things that are unrecoverable toot sweet.

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