Up the Paddle Without a Creek

March 14, 2015

d7dfe440-98af-11e3-a20a-4197883a2af2_calif-terra-nasa-2014Rain-drizzle and gray this afternoon on California’s north coast, but a bright gleam was found this week for our environment — normally bad news, but at least for once, some good.

Yesterday, via The Verge: ‘For the last 40 years, whenever the world economy grew, so did the Earth’s carbon dioxide levels — until 2014, The Washington Post reports. The International Energy Agency (IEA) announced that in 2014, the economy grew and CO2 levels didn’t.’

(Illustration: NASA satellite image of California’s drought, early 2014, found here).

This first-time “decoupling” of the economy and carbon emissions is indeed a helpful hint at getting a handle on climate change, but there’s still a lot of shit in the air — some detail from ArsTechnica:

The IEA tracks emissions due to energy use; as such, factors like deforestation and concrete production could still have led to a small increase in emissions.
Still, as far as energy is concerned, carbon dioxide emissions were the same in 2013 and 2014: 32.3 billion tonnes (each tonne is 1,000kg).
This came despite the fact that the global economy expanded by a healthy 3 percent in 2014.

This does not mean, however, that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere will stop growing.
The current level of emissions is sufficient to drive increases of two to three parts-per-million.
2014 also saw the first time that atmospheric levels peaked above 400ppm, a milestone that the Earth probably hasn’t seen for over a million years.

And again, coupled with that bit of news, was another report on California’s drought, a period of dryness made-more parched by climate change, and our near-critical water supply.
From Newsweek yesterday afternoon:

In an op-ed published Thursday by the Los Angeles Times, Jay Famiglietti, a senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, painted a dire picture of the state’s water crisis.
California, he writes, has lost around 12 million acre-feet of stored water every year since 2011.
In the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins, the combined water sources of snow, rivers, reservoirs, soil water and groundwater amounted to a volume that was 34 million acre-feet below normal levels in 2014.
And there is no relief in sight.
“As our ‘wet’ season draws to a close, it is clear that the paltry rain and snowfall have done almost nothing to alleviate epic drought conditions. January was the driest in California since record-keeping began in 1895. Groundwater and snowpack levels are at all-time lows” Famiglietti writes.
“We’re not just up a creek without a paddle in California, we’re losing the creek too.”

“Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing,” Famiglietti writes.

And action, real action, is delayed at the gate. Although California offered up a regulatory system last year for water usage, actual enforcement is wimpish at best: ‘The drought persists, but most local water departments have been reluctant to crack down on water-wasters. Warning letters are unusual. Small fines are rare. And the $500 hammer is virtually never wielded.’

Paddles and boats: Useless without a creek.

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