Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Europe: New Ice Age Cancelled?

It wasn't too long ago that one of the major fears of the looming ice melt-off in the Arctic was the cut-off of the Gulf Stream's feed of warm water to Europe. A new ice age decending on the continent was something to be considering, if not preparing for. But continued study and computer modelling have apparently put the kobosh to that future. Indeed, as we've been witnessing in Europe, the future seems to be consistent with the overall warming effect. It's been getting hotter and drier for more and more of the year.

Preparing for a cold future has never been high on the political agenda. Perhaps understandably, European leaders have been more preoccupied with responding to the 2003 summer heat wave that killed 15,000 people across France and the need for new dike technology to keep the Netherlands from being inundated by rising seas associated with melting ice caps.

Richard Seager, a senior research scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University in Palisades, N.Y., said thatEuropeans should trust what they feel in the air. “Britain and western Europe have had one heat wave after another so far this century,” Dr. Seager said. “It’s phenomenal. The idea that anyone is worried about a new ice age I find rather odd.”

Pot Warming, King Frog Settling

As the extended drought conditions continue to fuel the 200,000-acre burn in Florida and Georgia, self-styled king, George W. Bush, is responding to the Supreme Court's rebuke of his administration's de-clawed EPA.

President Bush responded Monday to the Supreme Court's rebuke of his administration for refusing to regulate greenhouse gases by rehashing a plan from his State of the Union speech to boost ethanol and tinker with fuel efficiency standards.
In essence, though, the Prez is stalling for time and could end up doing nothing through the remaining 18 months of his term.
"In effect, the president asked his agency heads to share ideas and come up with a plan that is due three weeks before he leaves office," said Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming
So the remarkable granite-hard denial at the top of the most well-endowed government in the world continues. For the rest of those 18 months, at least, it appears that we won't have much - if any - leadership in realistic action from the White House.

As to the wildfires in the Southeast, they're another example of how our human settlement patterns fail to accomodate the realities of the natural world and the probable effects of climate change.
Florida in particular has undergone an explosion in population – a growth of about 13 percent between 2000 and 2006. This has meant that more and more people are pushing into rural areas. In dry weather conditions, such regions can be rife with dry, crackling brush – ideal kindling for a wildfire sparked by a bolt of lightning, discarded cigarette butt, or another trigger.

In years past, foresters worked hard to clear this brush with controlled burns. Now, however, with more homes in these areas, the options for intentional burns are more limited.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

California Streaming - Water Policy Changes

Drought and flooding, as the potential extremes of climate change, have long been threats to California - a state whose very financial existence depends on moving water from its natural locations to the dry valley farmlands and concentrated population centers that otherwise would be semi-arid deserts. How are the needs of farmers, environmentalists, municipal utility districts and fishing industries served from natural water supplies that may become even more limited? People fight in the courts, congress and state legislatures over water rights and it's a rare occasion when opponents reach agreement over how limited water will be distributed.

Now environmentalists and local politicians have reached what amounts to a treaty over water distribution in the Sacramento Delta and it may serve as a useful model as climate change forces water crises elsewhere in the US.

The SF Chronicle article is headlined Big, New Water Project Under Way: Diversion to Supply Sacramento Area and the East Bay and its lede is

Government officials and environmentalists broke ground Monday on a new Sacramento River water diversion system, deeming it a historic project that sets a precedent for state water distribution in an era of global warming and drought.

As with most of these tugs of war, it's a complex issue, not easily explained in the space of one article, but the important part for environmental concerns in future similar situations is this:
...the project accomplishes two main goals of the environmental community: protection of the lower American River and the promotion of water conservation and wastewater recycling.