Tuesday, July 25, 2006

California Heat a Case Study in Un-Sustainability

California continues to be held in the grips of a devastating heat wave. For ten straight days temperatures have soared above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, with the heat related death toll now up to 38.

Adding to this is the continued failure of the state's power system, with blackouts affecting 50,000 homes and businesses on Tuesday, down from 1,000,000 over the weekend.

Alongside the human strain are the rotting carcasses of thousands of dead cattle that have also succumbed to the record breaking heat, most of which remain decomposing in the fields because disposal facilities are overwhelmed by the volume of remains that need to be processed.

The story is similar throughout Europe where 40 have died in the past two weeks, and continued high temperatures are straining both power supplies and crops. Nuclear power stations in France and Spain have been forced to cut back production because river water normally used to cool reactors is now too warm, and low water levels in the Po River have impacted hydroelectric power in Rome, knocking out elevators and air conditioners.

However, the hardest hit may be Europe's farming community where estimated losses range from 20% for Poland to 50% in Germany.

None of these impacts are trivial or isolated. Through broad sections of the world human lives, water systems, livestock, farms and economies are paying the price for our continued inaction on global warming.

It begs the question, at what point did it become acceptable for dozens of people to die, for supply shortages to leave 1,000,000 homes to be without power, and for livestock to lie decomposing in the open air?

The facts point towards un-sustainability on a massive scale, and the breadth of that scale no longer exists in the unseen future. Millions of people now live within it's reality and are facing more than the immediate risks of heat, power shortages and limited water. With temperature increases now taking a toll on our food supply, the impacts are coming home to the very foundation of our survival. Nukes aren't going to solve our energy problems if there is no water to cool them, saving water to generate power won't help if our crops are drying up for lack of water, and more fossil fuel energy will only accelerate the effects of global warming we are already experiencing.

While soaring energy prices are driving the economy and making certain people wealthy, it is also eroding the foundations for our future prosperity and creating a debt to the planet - in CO2 - that we won't have a hope of repaying. We need to rethink our business model, before mother nature declares us bankrupt.


3 comments:

EX-NDIP said...

And we have guys like Michael Moore wanting to plug in electric cars . . . in California . . . in the summer . . . makes you wonder how the folks in the old days contended with the heat, when it was much warmer than it is now. The Vikings lived in Greenland a thousand years ago, the Oak trees in Britain grew much faster . . .
But it must be the governments fault, or maybe those greedy Arabs sitting on all that oil . . . or just maybe its our welfare-state mentality that has finally burst its magical bubble???

In the Soviet Union there was a common saying to the effect that, under communism, it is the FUTURE that is always known and the PAST that is constantly changing.

Jameson said...

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts global temperature will increase between 2.5 to 10.5 °F from 1990 to 2100.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming

How can you attribute a normal heat wave to global warming if we're only supposed to be 0.1 °F into the warming trend?(assuming a linear increase)

Odiyya said...

The point isn't really that "California's heat wave is caused by global warming" - it a single case example of broad world trends that are repeatedly demonstrating to our dense intellects that climate change is occuring and the effects are increasingly affecting us and are increasingly severe.