Sunday, October 01, 2017

The Sleeping Giant Slowly Stirs

 America, rich America, is becoming worried about climate change. The folks who own all that stately waterfront property on Martha's Vineyard are beginning to realize they're pretty much screwed. The same for their cousins in the pricier parts of Nantucket. Ditto for Malibu. There are holdouts. Florida's brain dead governor, Rick Scott, still won't hear any talk from state officials about "global warming." No, you better not say that.

Moving Day, Martha's Vineyard

But it's not just pricey waterfront that's in peril. America's human pizza oven, Phoenix, has a grim future.  Stuck out in the midst of the Arizona desert, Phoenix has become America's fifth largest city. Another 30 years and it could be uninhabitable.

Heat is one factor that will make Phoenix less hospitable to human habitation in the foreseeable future. “It’s currently the fastest warming big city in the US,” meteorologist and former Arizona native Eric Holthaus tells Vice. A study by Climate Central finds that Phoenix will likely be three to five degrees hotter in the summer months by 2050. The average number of 100 degree days will increase from 40 a year today to more than 132 a year. To put that in some perspective, New York City currently experiences two 100 degree days a year. Climate Central expects that number to increase to 15 a year by 2050.

Heat is not the only factor making the Phoenix area less hospitable to humans. Hondula says that lack of water could be more of a problem than rising temperatures. “As much as 20 percent of the river could dry up by 2050,” he says. The majority of the drinking water for the area comes from the Colorado River — the same source that much of southern California depends on.
In 2012, the Department of the Interior released a climate change study that warns of a precipitous drop in the amount of water available from the Colorado River in coming years. As reported by the Washington Post, the report suggests that less precipitation in the Rocky Mountains will result in a decrease in the amount of water flowing in the Colorado equivalent to 3.2 million acre-feet — about five times as much water as Los Angeles uses each year. Southern California has first claim to whatever water is available. Phoenix may have to do without.

And then there's that other factor, the one nobody is talking about, money.

“The issues that we’re going to be facing with climate change and drought, well, we’re in an era when we don’t have a lot of money anymore,” [Arizona State sustainability researcher, Ray] Quay says. In other words, Washington may not be there to help when the water crunch hits the Southwest.

The thing about anthropogenic global warming is that it varies from region to region. You can break the United States down into climate change regions, each with its own mix of impacts. America's eastern seaboard is one, the Gulf coast another, the west coast can be divided south and north, the southwest desert, the great plains, the mid-west and the northeast, each will have its own climate change challenges.

Business Insider reports that, while every part of the US is going to get hard, America has one area that really stands out from the rest.

A safe haven sounds like a good idea right about now.

Somewhere that's warm but not too warm, free from hurricanes and flood-causing downpours, and close to a body of water yet far enough to avoid the threat of sea-level rise.

Which places does that leave? According to climate scientists and urban planners, not a lot.

"The bottom line is it's going to be bad everywhere," Bruce Riordan, the director of the Climate Readiness Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, told Business Insider.

"There are places that might at least temper the effects of climate change," he said.

All of them are cities, which tend to be less isolated than rural areas, and most are in the Pacific Northwest.

"Much of the Pacific Northwest is really well-positioned for being one of the better places for climate change," Shandas said.

Geographically speaking, cities in the Pacific Northwest are also conveniently situated near natural resources like water — an integral buffer against drought — and hills, which provide access to higher elevations with cooler temperatures. The region's temperature is naturally fairly mild, making it a good candidate for those hoping to avoid the heat waves that are already becoming more common.


Lorne said...

Given the geocentric nature of the thinking of many Americans, in some ways I am glad that the hurricanes and heat and wildfires are hitting them hard, Mound. Since it means little to them that other parts of the world, including the Caribbean, are suffering such devastation, it will only dawn on them that their politicians are duplicitous climate-change deniers if they get repeatedly hit by the effects of climate change.

The Mound of Sound said...

The hold-out States tend to be in the south, southeast and the Bible Belt which are being hit by some of the hardest impacts such as Harvey, Irma and Maria. Will it be enough to change minds? Not by what we're seeing out of Congress and the White House.

Trailblazer said...

Will NAFTA talks include access to water?

Reading comments in the Washington Post there is already an influx of people to Oregon escaping the heat of Arizona.


Lulymay said...

Trailblazer's comment on possible effects of NAFTA was a concern among Water Management staff when I worked there, Mound.

Perhaps some things have changed since my time, but I can tell you that year after year, Water managers put forward to changes to the Water Act to be included in the annual Legislative Agenda, which was rather old, and year after year, it wasn't deemed important enough to be addressed.

I admit, I've been out of the loop for some years and am not sure if even minor tweaks have been instituted, but for many years, all one had to do was plunk down $100 along with an application to remove water from a given body of water. Because the annual fee was a paltry $30 annually, little priority was put on processing these applications (up to at least 5 years before one was issued). However once one applied, one could start removing one's water requirements immediately. According to the original Mulroney FTA, BC could not charge any more for our water to those from the US who wished to use it than what we charged BC citizens. The amount wanted didn't not seem to be a problem.

In addition, groundwater was never licenced during my tenure. As I say, some of these concerns may have been addressed, but think of Nestle's ability to remove water in the Hope area to use in their very lucrative bottled water industry and I rather doubt much has changed.

Most folks from BC have no idea of the loopholes that have been available for outsiders to acquire copious amounts of our precious water resources.

Perhaps your contacts have more up to date info than me?

In addition, groundwater was not licenced and was used liberally without having to put up a dime.

Trailblazer said...

Silly me!!
For some years I did belong to this group.

It kind of fizzled out ; I think some of us thought the battle won!

Gwynne Dyer saw this coming in his book, Climate Wars.


Tal Hartsfeld said...

Phoenix is already inhospitable because of it's social climate.

Tal Hartsfeld said...

And the Pacific Northwest is chock full of dormant volcanoes which could become active again anytime.

The Mound of Sound said...

Tal, it's not volcanoes we fear. We dread the Big One, a scale 9+ subduction earthquake that's due to occur sometime between this afternoon and 100 years from now. It's estimated that it will move this 300+ mile island I'm on, with its mountain ranges and land mass, 18 feet to the east. The tsunami is predicted to sweep the west coast of the island and the west coast of Washington and Oregon.

Volcanoes are kids' stuff.

Anonymous said...

Anyong...and here we are in Canada giving our water away to Lestle which makes billions on bottled water. With the plastic leaching into the water and then we Canadians have to recycle billions of empty water bottles which by the way we do not get one cent to recycle.