Thursday, January 23, 2014

adobe and bricks

Do you remember California's extreme drought of 1977?  I remember walking to high school through my east Petaluma neighborhood, looking at the two-inch-wide cracks in the ground with amazement.  To a young and recent Midwestern transplant, the sight of the soil tiled up into polygons of the driest mud made me feel like I was living on Mars.  The cracks were so big you could easily trip on them if you didn't watch your step.

My family, trying to help, went along with the advice of the day.  We put a brick in our toilet to reduce the per-flush water use.  Also: "If it's yellow, let it mellow.  If it's brown, flush it down."

The 2013-14 California drought looks to be worse than 1977.  And different.  I don't remember the smell of wildfires during that winter.  But I smell wildfires every day now, whether I'm in Sacramento, San Diego or San Francisco.

We may be moving into a regional weather pattern not seen in modern times.   The behavior of the "ridiculously resilient ridge" of high barometric pressure suggests that this pattern could continue to endure on that time scale.   It's already lasted 13 months, when it normally lasts just a few months.  The RRR could persist for 13 more months...

Some climate change predictions suggest that this may be the new normal for the North American southwest.  What will 40 million people do if there is no new precipitation for a couple more years?  What if we built a corner of the country for 100 million people for which there is no water?

You can do something.   The hotter the world gets, the worse our drought troubles will be.  The more CO2 we put in the air, the hotter the world gets.  If putting CO2 in the air gets more expensive, we will learn to do less of it.  So, advocate for a carbon tax.

It doesn't have to hurt everyone.  It could be a Pigouvian tax, in which all the proceeds from taxing carbon get refunded to the populace on some basis.  Then, only energy hogs will pay more.  Those making good energy choices will earn more than they pay. Pricing carbon will incentivize the reduction of carbon emissions, without hurting the economy overall.

In the shorter term, you can support the few federal attempts to legislate carbon pricing in general.  Go to and search for "climate".  With a few mouse clicks, you can generate a letter of support for climate legislation that gets sent to your representatives.  Presently there is a Senate bill sponsored by Bernie Sanders to impose a federal carbon tax.  Here, I'll do it for you.

Pushing for political change on climate is ultimately more effective than sticking a brick in your toilet.