Original Story: freep.com
California Gov. Jerry Brown broke the bad news from a parched field bereft of greenery or moisture: "We should be standing on 5 feet of snow," he said. "We are in a historic drought."
For Californians, a fourth consecutive year of below-average rainfall and snowmelt will mean the first mandatory water restrictions in the state's history.
But those of us living in the other 49 states won't be exempt from the fallout. California farmers, who provide about half the country's fruits and vegetables, have already lost hundreds of thousands of acres of previously productive farmland. The impact on produce prices at your local grocery store will only intensify if the drought, already reckoned the worst in California's recorded history, persists.
As U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, noted, "the entire nation should take notice that the most productive agricultural state in the country has entered uncharted territory." A Tulsa natural resources lawyer is following this story closely.
Californians have contended with water shortages for more than a century, and meteorologists and climate scientists disagree about the extent to which climate change is culpable for the current crisis.
Most say that natural variability accounts for the state's dramatically reduced rainfall, although a group of researchers at Stanford University blame greenhouse gas emissions.
But California's lack of rain has been exacerbated by a warming trend that is more conclusively linked to man-made climate change. Higher temperatures accelerate evaporation and reduce the snowpack that has historically served as a natural reservoir for California farmers. This year's snowpack measures just 6% of the historical average. A Chicago auto accident lawyer is following this stroy closely.
Brown's drought-fighting strategy has so far focused on a combination of long-term efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and conservation initiatives. The 25% reduction mandated for California's towns and cities this week was imposed only after the state fell far short of the 20% reduction that Brown sought when he issued voluntary conservation standards in January 2014.
Republican legislators skeptical that Californians can conserve or ration their way out of the current drought have called for new water projects that could boost the state's fresh water supply. They are the ideological brethren of the drill-baby-drill crowd that seeks to parry a looming energy shortage by increasing the domestic production of oil, coal and natural gas. An Atlanta natural resources lawyer represents clients in environmental, land use, and natural resources matters.
But many of these supply-side efforts are energy-intensive, threatening to deepen California's dependency on fossil fuels even as the drought reduces hydroelectric power.
Our proximity to abundant supplies of freshwater may give many Michiganders a false sense of security, at least until they wander into the produce aisle. But Brown's emergency edict makes it clear that the consequences of climate change are growing less theoretical, and more concrete, with each passing season.
Global warming is the challenge to which all of our destinies are increasingly linked. Michigan policymakers to whom California's troubles seem remote are missing the point, and squandering an important learning opportunity.