The thing about global warming is that we're told the real consequences won't arrive for several decades at least, possibly even centuries. Whew! I'll be long gone by then. Don't worry, be happy - unless you live in one of the many spots around the world that have fallen strangely dry, and arid.
You see, long before the polar ice caps melt into the seas, maybe even before you get you start decorating next year's Easter Eggs, you'll be hearing a lot about what I like to call Global Drying. It's a craze that's positively sweeping the American south and it's the hottest thing in the eastern Mediterranean, southern Europe, Australia, big hunks of Africa, parts of Mexico and all sorts of other places.
Drought is here, and it's there, and over there too. But, until this year, it was often out of sight/out of mind. That, friends, is coming to an end.
Atlanta, Georgia is a booming metropolis of more than four million people and it's currently beset by drought. Take a look at the map above. See if you can locate Atlanta. What colour is that anyway?
Now that map shows you how the droughts affecting the US are expected to develop into February of next year. February is going to be a key month for the good folks of Atlanta - it's the month in which that city is expected to run out of water.
Interesting question - what do you do with more than four million people who find themselves without water? If you're Governor Sonny Perdue, the answer is obvious - you get down on bended knee and pray to Jesus for help. And that, sad as it may be, is about the best idea Sonny has come up with.
Now I'm sure there are answers to Atlanta's problems but, like most of these things, implementing them takes time and Atlanta appears to be as short on time as it is on water. For FEMA, Atlanta may make Katrina look like child's play. Atlanta isn't an isolated case. The drought spreads (as the map shows) across an entire, densely populated region and there's another one much like it now besetting the southwest and a developing drought along the states in between.Scientists are now beginning to whisper the word "megadrought." Until very recently, most drought studies barely went back more than a century or two. However that's changing and we're now looking back, 1200-years and more. Can you say "oopsie"?
We've all heard of the Dirty Thirties and the seven-year drought that afflicted the prairie grasslands. What you probably haven't heard about are the 60-year droughts or the one that ran in North America from AD 900-1300, a full 400-years.
It's been less than 200-years since we really began filling up the US and Canada and less than a century since we created the "hydraulic society" that allowed the southwest to be populated thanks to massive government water projects. What we didn't understand at the time was that those regions, the Great Plains included, were enjoying an unusually wet period. We assumed there would be a reliable source of adequate amounts of precipitation that we could harness to let people live in deserts, complete with manicured lawns, artificial lakes and golf courses.
Even at our most optimistic moment, the illusion was never sustainable. We managed to empty the High Plains aquifer by more than a hundred feet. The once mighty Colorado River no longer flows into Mexico. We've sucked these things almost dry - just in time for the arrival of what might be a severe, multi-year drought.
So, keep an eye on the ice packs and the polar bears and the vanishing glaciers. These things are important. But, if your relatives from Atlanta call to tell you they're coming for a visit, they might just be staying for a while.