Climate Multiplier

By Keith Kloor | February 5, 2009 2:59 pm

This story in the L.A. Times really bugs me. In an interview, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu predicts, or at least was paraphrased as predicting, that

California’s farms and vineyards could vanish by the end of the century, and its major cities could be in jeopardy, if Americans do not act to slow the advance of global warming.

Nowhere in the story is drought mentioned, which I find astonishing, given that just a few days ago, a state water official said, “We may be at the start of the worst California drought in modern history.”  As I wrote here, even that statement fails to take into account a longer climate history of the West. The mega-droughts that occurred a millinium ago make the 1930s dust bowl look like childs play.

As the LA Times reported two years ago, scientists believe that the Southwest is about to enter a new cycle of severe aridity–a state of permanent drought–that will last for decades.

So now comes along a story that suggests global warming will bring California to its knees by the end of this century. But that’s only part of the story. Climate change is a force multiplier–it will undoubtedly exacerbate matters, making the West drier and for longer periods.

The natural cycles of drought and human-induced climate change will combine to write the future of the West.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: California, drought, global warming
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Collide-a-Scape

Collide-a-Scape is an archived Discover blog. Keep up with Keith's current work at http://www.keithkloor.com/

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

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