Dam climate change.
An opinion piece in the New York Times is offering a tie-in between global warming and the potential disaster unfolding at the Oroville Dam in Northern California.
“After five years of record-setting drought, much of California is being pummeled by an extremely wet winter,” the piece in the NYT this week states. “The disaster at Oroville, where precipitation is more than double the average, is the latest reminder that the United States needs a climate-smart upgrade of our water management systems.”
The nation’s tallest dam – it stands at a whopping 770 feet – is roughly 70 miles north of Sacramento. The storm-swollen lake behind the dam spilled down an unpaved slope over most of last weekend, eroding it to the point that authorities, fearing a breach, issued evacuation orders for nearly 200,000 residents in the valley below.
Data provider CoreLogic on Wednesday estimated that more than 50,000 single- and multi-family homes could be damaged with an estimated reconstruction cost value of $13.3 billion if the dam were to fail completely. Evidently, environmental activists and local government officials warned more than a decade ago about the risk of catastrophic flooding below the dam.
The NYT piece, authored by Noah S. Diffenbaugh, a senior fellow and professor of earth system science at Stanford, said the dam problem is the resulting “hazard of relying on aging infrastructure to protect us from extreme weather.” He also blames climate change.
Diffenbaugh notes that the nation’s water infrastructure was designed to accommodate a climate with fewer warm years and a more reliable snowpack.
“The recent drought has highlighted the pressure that a changing climate puts on a snowpack-dependent water system,” he writes. “With the shift toward more rain rather than snow, and the earlier melting of the snowpack, water managers need to release water more frequently for flood control.”
This is what’s happening in Oroville, where water managers are racing to empty water from the dam’s reservoir ahead of storms in the forecast.
Diffenbaugh adds: “Because these storms are relatively warm, they are likely to bring rain to the surrounding mountains, speeding the flow of water behind the dam.”
Donald Trump’s campaign promise to pull out of the climate change agreement hammered out by world leaders over a year ago in Paris may be one of those easier-said-than-done things, according to the L.A. Times.
His vow seems to be putting the president under pressure from places he may not have expected.
“His own secretary of State appears to see little upside in the president following through on the signature campaign vow to scrap it,” Times reporter Evan Halper writes in the Wednesday article. “His ambassador to the United Nations is hedging. And titans of industries that Trump promised would be unleashed to create new jobs once freed from the agreement’s constraints are openly hostile to Trump’s plan to put it through the shredder.”
According to the story, even likely allies like the American Coal Council or the Edison Electric Institute, a trade group for power companies, have yet to come out and back a withdrawal from the United Nations-sponsored climate plan.
William Happer, the president’s likely choice for science adviser, is making no bones about where he stands on climate change and anthropogenic global warming – which he sees as two distinct subjects.
Harper, an emeritus professor at Princeton University who is said to be in line for the role of science adviser to Trump, has called climate scientists “a glassy-eyed cult.”
Happer met Trump last month to discuss the post and said if offered the job he’d accept.
“There’s a whole area of climate so-called science that is really more like a cult,” Happer told the Guardian. “It’s like Hare Krishna or something like that. They’re glassy-eyed and they chant. It will potentially harm the image of all science.”
His stance has some people concerned.
John Holdren, former science adviser to Barack Obama, worried that Happer’s opposition to mainstream scientific opinion could have repercussions.
“Every national academy of science agrees that the science is solid, that climate change is real,” the Guardian quoted him as saying. “To call this a cult is absurd and … an insult to the people who have done this work.”
Not everyone views Happer as a bad choice.
Brietbart, an opinionated infotainment source, relished the prospect of Happer’s appointment in a mid-January blog, offering two morsels of Brietbart logic.
“First – and perhaps most importantly – it would drive the Greenies to the kind of sphincter-popping apoplexy not seen since Hillary lost the election. Second, in his courage, his decency, and his understanding of the truth about global warming science, Happer is exactly what America needs to restore a semblance of integrity to the discredited world of US government science after years of corruption, incompetence and neglect.”
Happer, in an opinion piece in the Post-Bulletin published earlier this month, made it clear that he doesn’t believe climate change is a hoax. He just thinks it’s not so much caused by humans, and that we don’t need to do anything about it.
Climate change isn’t a hoax, he argues, because the climate has been changing since the Earth was formed some 4.5 billion years ago.
“There is no opportunity for a hoax, since climate change is so well documented by historical and geophysical records,” he writes. “But none of the climate change of the past was due to humans. The very minor warming in the past few centuries is mostly from non-human causes as well.”
Observations, which include an extended hiatus in warming since 2000, show that more atmospheric carbon dioxide will cause only modest warming of the Earth’s surface, according to Happer.
“This would benefit the world in many ways, extending growing seasons and lessening human mortality, which increases in cold weather,” he writes. “And modest warming means that there will also be no dangerous increase in sea levels. Climate alarmists are advancing a false narrative.”
The website Futurism is offering a cartoonish solution to combat global warming.
The site draws on an old episode from the Comedy Central animated series Futurama, which as its title suggests is set far into the future. The episode gives a historical retrospective of how global warming was combated by dropping a giant ice cube into the ocean every now and then.
According to Futurism, Futurama’s colossal tongue-in-cheek solution has some merit – theoretically.
“It takes a lot of energy to melt ice, so if we somehow managed to funnel the energy of greenhouse gases trapped within Earth’s atmosphere into this ice cube, then it would absorb all 300 terawatts of extra heat caused by climate change,” the site states.
A terawatt is a unit of power equal to 1 trillion watts.
However, this theoretical solution would require roughly 3 quintillion grams of ice, or roughly 31,000 cubic kilometers, meaning that if every human on the planet produced 5 kg of ice per day, it would take 2,000-plus years to make an ice cube that big, according to Futurism.
So what’s the point of pointing this all out if the task is literally impossible?
The point, it seems, was to call attention to the need to address the issue.
“What we need now are ways that address the root issues of climate change, like the Clean Energy Fund’s recent investment in research and technology to lower greenhouse-gas emissions, cutting use of fossil fuels and shifting to renewable energy sources, and focusing on putting electric vehicles (EVs) on the road,” the site states. “These solutions may not be as quick as dropping a giant ice cube into the sea, but these initiatives are our best hope in actually combatting climate change.”
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