California and climate change

California climate change

Photo: Rennett Stowe

The drought is only a preview of what’s to come.

The current drought that has plagued California since late 2011, has been one of the worst the state has ever seen. According to verdicts gathered by the New York Times, scientists believe global warming caused the recent lack of natural water in the Golden State by 15 to 20 percent. Although the drought was inevitable due to natural climate patterns, it’s believed that climate change has amplified it.

Even harder to comprehend is the fact that as the world continues to warm up, future droughts will be much worse than the current one. The probability of droughts that are on the far end of the spectrum has roughly doubled during the past century.

Wildfires are becoming more intense and frequent.

Hotter temperatures plus a widespread drought is an ideal recipe for fast-moving wildfires throughout the state. It has been noted that California temperatures have been rising and are part of a warming trend throughout the country where warmer winters are becoming the norm, not the exception.

In 2016, 140, 000 acres were burnt by wildfires in Southern California alone. This is a staggering reality since it is almost four times the average amount of acreage that is predicted to burn in a five-year period for this region.

Bad air days are now a major problem.

California has strict air quality standards compared to the rest of the country, but much of the state is still plagued by air pollution. The American Lung Association (ALA) has stated in their 2014 State of the Air report, that six of the top seven regions with the highest ozone pollution are located within California. Los Angeles is the worst, followed by much of the Central Valley. With climate change, these conditions are likely to only get worse, since with warmer days comes more smog, and drier weather causes more dust to rise.

The spread of disease is on the rise.

One of the effects of increased dust in the air is that the spread of Valley Fever is gaining momentum. This potentially fatal disease is caused by inhaling microscopic spores of Coccidioides, a soil-dwelling fungus. Around 75 percent of those who are diagnosed with it live within Central California’s San Joaquin Valley.

In general, the number of reported cases in California is increasing, where more than 4,000 cases of Valley Fever were recorded in 2012. Most symptoms appear as flu-like and will get better on their own, but some cases are severe enough to affect other parts of your body like your central nervous system.

The current El Niño weather patterns are causing flooding and erosion.

Last winter, El Niño was predicted to bring record-breaking rains, and help reverse the drought that was plaguing California for years. Unfortunately, the rains were not above average, but the effects of El Niño did bring higher tidewaters that resulted in erosion and flooding. The ocean temperatures also rose due to increased greenhouse gasses, which in turn increased the sea levels, and caused flooding on land.

Scientists predict that in the next 50 years, these direct effects of El Niño will be the new norm during the years that the storm is expected to take place.

Native fish are going extinct.

California once was home to a flourishing fishing industry, but now sadly, non-native species outnumber the native ones. The decline is due largely to the fact that most of the fish are cold water ones — so these species’ are especially struggling because their streams and lakes are getting warmer because of climate change. It is predicted that out of the 121 native species, 82 percent will go extinct in the near future because of climate change.

But there’s hope and new climate change laws are in place.

Governor Jerry Brown has recently created a new campaign to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Although California had ambitious goals already in place to decrease 1990 levels by 2020, this new plan makes regulation even more effective. This new campaign includes using renewable energy more, placing more electric cars on the road, curbing emissions from main industries, and improving energy efficiency.

That’s a great initiative, but we need to keep going. A good place to start is at the voting booth this November — only vote for the politicians who believe the facts. Climate change is real and only those who are devoted to addressing it should hold a public office.