On Monday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change came out with a new report with dire conclusions about the state of the global environment. Among the conclusions were that the world will likely reach a dangerous 1.5° centigrade of warming by the year 2040, even in a best-case scenario of emissions cuts.
The sobering assessment also found that some changes that are already playing out, such as warming oceans and rising sea levels, are “irreversible for centuries to millennia.”
U.N. Secretary General António Guterres called the findings a “code red for humanity,” adding that the “alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable.”
The report also found that climate change is intensifying, occurring at an accelerated pace, and is already affecting every region of the planet.
Monday’s report also recommends that global governments should take action now to mute the worst-case scenarios.
In California, state officials say they have already seen numerous impacts from longer and deeper droughts, record fire seasons, and dramatic stress on state infrastructure.
Last week, state leaders conducted a virtual meeting to discuss the drought and fire issues with media from around the state.
Climate change was squarely blamed as the cause.
California has always experienced a wide range of weather conditions from the very wet to the very dry.
And unlike other parts of the country, the precipitation we get is usually compressed into a small window from late fall into early spring. Outside of that, much of the state is baked by the summer sun. If that is the baseline, what we have seen over the past few decades is starting to push the boundaries of normal to a more extreme environment.
David Hochschild, Chair of the California Energy Commission, says, “For most of the last decade the state of California has averaged about 2 flex alerts per year but this year, 2021, we’ve already had 6 and we are in early August. Typically, August and September are when the grid is especially stressed.”
According to Michael Anderson, California State Climatologist, “We’ve had a runoff efficiency lower than anything we’ve seen in all the time we’ve been doing the forecasting which dates back to the 1930s. So, it is truly an interesting time with a lot of challenges.”
California has one of the most advanced water systems in the world with lakes and reservoirs and state-wide water delivery but this is the 3rd drought of a new 21st century and many of the lakes are low.
The lakes aren’t just a source of water but also a source of recreation and interestingly the recent droughts are driving different public behavior. State parks says they’ve already seen it: the drought is driving more people to beaches, putting additional pressure on those parks and ecosystems
Armando Quintero, the California Department of Parks and Recreation Director, says, “Inland water-based recreation is now going to coastal beaches of which 300 miles of the state’s coastline is managed by the California State Parks system. We are seeing the impacts of visitor use pressure.”
Jeanine Jones, the Interstate Resources Manager at California Department of Water Resources, says, “Within the coming months we will see record low elevations at some reservoirs.”
Monday’s IPCC report highlights the need for fewer emissions and more planning for the stresses caused by climate change. As the report implies, we are unlikely to put the genie back in the bottle, we’re just hoping to slow changes and plan for ways to deal with climate change impacts.