Wednesday, February 04, 2009

ENERGY SECRETARY CHU WARNS CALIFORNIA OF AGRI-CRISIS

Dan Shapley, Daily Green - President Obama's Energy Secretary, Stephen Chu, is discussing the threat of global warming in new, stark and -- frankly -- frightening terms. . .

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, his first since being confirmed as Energy Secretary, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist said that all agriculture in California could be undermined by global warming by the end of this century. In other words, within the space of one lifetime, the nation's largest farm producer -- known as the "salad bowl" because it provides about half of the nation's veggies -- could quickly become more like barren a dust bowl.

Not only that, but California's cities are in jeopardy, too, Chu said. The reason? Mountain snow pack in the Sierras is dwindling, as warmer temperatures prevent snow accumulation and lead to greater evaporation. It's the runoff from those mountain snows that irrigate land and keep thirsty people alive in the valleys below.

That's not a new warning. The declining spring runoff has been a significant factor in water stress, wildfires and other problems in California for several years. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has been warning that California is already experiencing the ill effects of climate change, in the form of a year-round fire "season" and increasingly untenable divisions of water wealth.

California is in its third year of drought, and currently the snow pack holds only 61% of the water it holds in a normal year, according to a recent survey. The drought could become the worst in modern history, and as the climate continues to warn, severe drought could persist indefinitely, or recur more frequently. . .

And the situation is not unique to California. The pace of glacial melting is accelerating around the world, according to a recent report. The melting of glaciers is akin to the loss of California snow pack, in that the runoff from glaciers is needed to irrigate crops and supply thirsty cities around the world. As those glaciers disappear, so might vast tracts of farmland and now-populous cities.