A milestone oil development project in Alaska’s Arctic waters
is having to extend its construction timeline to accommodate
the warming climate. The recently approved Liberty Project —
poised to become the first oil production facility in federal
Arctic waters — has altered its plans due to the shrinking sea
“Our problem is a society that is unintentionally, but
actively, ignoring opportunities because of the cultural
perception of wildfire,” said Jack Cohen, who is retired from
the U.S. Forest Service where he worked for 40 years as a fire
research scientist. That perception, he argues, is based on
myth and fear and complicated by an ongoing narrative that
attributes conflagrations like the Camp fire to such factors as
climate change, overgrown forests and urban encroachment into
Thirty years ago, this magazine published “The End of Nature,”
a long article about what we then called the greenhouse effect.
I [Bill McKibben] was in my twenties when I wrote it, and out
on an intellectual limb: climate science was still young. But
the data were persuasive, and freighted with sadness.
Forecasters say rain might arrive by Thanksgiving to clear away
the smoke and mercifully reduce fire danger. But the optimism
is tempered by a grim reality. … California has warmed
roughly 3 degrees Fahrenheit since 1980 during the autumn
months of September, October and November. Rainfall in those
months has fallen by about one-third over the same time.
There wasn’t a flake of real snow anywhere in the Sierra, but
that didn’t matter to Andy Melendes, who was first in line
Friday for opening day at the Alpine Meadows ski resort.
… Forecasters say the dry weather, which has increased
the fire danger across California, is likely to end Wednesday,
but the snowfall next week is not likely to make up for the
lack of precipitation this fall.
In the universe of California water, Tim Quinn is a professor emeritus. Quinn has seen — and been a key player in — a lot of major California water issues since he began his water career 40 years ago as a young economist with the Rand Corporation, then later as deputy general manager with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and finally as executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies. In December, the 66-year-old will retire from ACWA.
When people think of potential solutions to global warming,
they tend to visualize technologies like solar panels or
electric cars. A new study published on Wednesday, however,
found that better management of forests, grasslands and soils
in the United States could offset as much as 21 percent of the
country’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.
Last year was California’s most destructive fire season. That
is, until this year. And while climate change cannot be blamed
for individual fires like those currently burning at both ends
of the state, scientist Daniel Swain says climate change is a
“threat multiplier,” creating conditions that will lead to more
large, fast-moving and dangerous wildfires.
The day before commercial fishermen were due to bring the first
of the season’s Dungeness crab to Bay Area docks, they made
other news. On Wednesday, West Coast crab fishermen filed a
lawsuit alleging that 30 fossil fuel companies are to blame for
the past several years of delayed seasons and disastrous
economic losses due to ocean warming.
Researchers with UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of
Oceanography and Princeton University recently walked back
scientific findings published last month that showed oceans
have been heating up dramatically faster than previously
thought as a result of climate change.
President Trump took to Twitter to blame bad forest management.
Gov. Jerry Brown pointed to climate change. Their arguments
about the cause of disastrous wildfires roaring across the
state have turned a California catastrophe into the latest
political cudgel in the ongoing slugfest between Washington and
This is a wet place by California standards. It averages about
55 inches of rain a year, thanks to its prime location in the
verdant foothills of the Sierra Nevada, which wrings rain out
of Pacific storms. But when the Camp fire sparked last
Thursday, Paradise was parched. … Across California, the lack
of autumn rain is having dire consequences.
Thursday’s decision does not permanently block a federal permit
for Keystone XL. It requires the administration to conduct a
more complete review of potential adverse impacts related to
climate change, cultural resources and endangered species. The
court basically ordered a do-over.
A lawsuit by a group of young Americans, which asserts the U.S.
government is harming them by having created a national energy
system that causes climate change, is on hold again after a
federal appeals court Thursday granted the Trump
administration’s motion for a temporary stay. … The
young plaintiffs also accuse the government of failing to
protect natural resources as a “public trust” for future
For the fourth time, the Trump administration is asking the 9th
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to order dismissal of a youth-led
climate case that could go to trial in Eugene. Government
attorneys filed an emergency motion with the appeals court late
A group of young people can sue the federal government over its
climate change policies, the Supreme Court said Friday. Since
it was first filed in 2015, the government has requested
several times that Juliana v. United States be dismissed.
… Leigh-Ann Draheim, whose son Levi, 11, is the youngest
plaintiff, said the case was based in part on the public trust
doctrine. “People have the right to running water, clean water”
and clean air, Draheim told NPR.
The USDA’s internal watchdog will examine the agency’s plan to
restructure its top independent research office and move it out
of the District of Columbia, actions some lawmakers and staff
fear could leave research on contentious issues like climate
change and the social safety net vulnerable to political
The world’s oceans may be heating up faster than previously
thought — meaning the planet could have even less time to avoid
catastrophic global warming than predicted just weeks ago by
the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
According to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature,
ocean temperatures have been warming 60 percent more than
outlined by the IPCC.
Just because El Niño may be lurking
off in the tropical Pacific, does that really offer much of a
clue about what kind of rainy season California can expect in
Water Year 2019?
Will a river of storms pound the state, swelling streams and
packing the mountains with deep layers of heavy snow much like
the exceptionally wet 2017 Water Year (Oct. 1, 2016 to Sept. 30,
2017)? Or will this winter sputter along like last winter,
leaving California with a second dry year and the possibility of
another potential drought? What can reliably be said about the
prospects for Water Year 2019?
At Water Year
2019: Feast or Famine?, a one-day event on Dec. 5 in Irvine,
water managers and anyone else interested in this topic will
learn about what is and isn’t known about forecasting
California’s winter precipitation weeks to months ahead, the
skill of present forecasts and ongoing research to develop
A meticulous re-creation of a 3-decade-old study of birds on a
mountainside in Peru has given scientists a rare chance to
prove how the changing climate is pushing species out of the
places they are best adapted to. Surveys of more than 400
species of birds in 1985 and then in 2017 have found that
populations of almost all had declined, as many as eight had
disappeared completely, and nearly all had moved to higher
elevations in what scientists call “an escalator to
Rallies are scheduled across the country on Monday in support
of a youth-led climate case that’s on hold pending Supreme
Court review. A trial in the case — known as Juliana v. U.S. —
was scheduled to begin Oct. 29 in U.S. District Court in
Eugene. But proceedings are temporarily suspended as the
Supreme Court decides whether the case should move forward.
California officials unveiled a plan Thursday that calls for
the state to begin taking concrete steps to deal with an ocean
that’s getting more acidic. Ocean acidification is a growing
problem that researchers say is only expected to get worse as
climate changes impact local ocean waters.
With a deadline approaching for Arizona to finish a deal that
would divvy up cutbacks in Colorado River water deliveries, the
state’s cities, tribes and agricultural irrigation districts
are entering what should be the final stretch of negotiations.
Scientists are becoming more adept at linking climate change to
worsening storms, even in real time, but federal officials
aren’t using that information to help prepare for natural
disasters. The study of how global warming makes extreme
weather more intense or more frequent—called attribution
science—has evolved rapidly.
It was only a few years ago that a strident denier of climate
change who mocked the idea of humans pushing temperatures
higher represented the congressional district that stretches
into what Floridians fondly call their Treasure Coast. No House
candidate along the Treasure Coast talks that way
now. Worries about increasingly toxic algae blooms have
consumed residents this election season.
The lawsuit filed in 2015 argues that government officials have
known for more than 50 years that carbon pollution from fossil
fuels was causing climate change and that policies on oil and
gas deprive the young people of life, liberty and property.
They also say the government has failed to protect natural
resources as a “public trust” for future generations.
The U.S. Supreme Court has suspended proceedings in a youth-led
climate case scheduled to go to trial in Eugene beginning Oct.
29. The brief order issued Friday by Chief Justice John Roberts
says only that discovery and trial in U.S. District Court in
Eugene are on hold pending receipt of a response from the
plaintiffs, who include 21 youths — six of whom are from
In a city where it is difficult for middle-income families to
find housing, and people shooting up drugs is a too-common
sight on downtown streets, the fate of a largely hidden piece
of infrastructure might seem like a low priority. Despite this,
San Francisco voters are being asked to approve Proposition A,
a bond on the Nov. 6 ballot that would generate $425 million to
begin strengthening the 3-mile-long seawall along the city’s
The loud crack rang out from the fog above the Baishui No. 1
Glacier as a stone shard careened down the ice, flying past
Chen Yanjun as he operated a GPS device. More projectiles were
tumbling down the hulk of ice that scientists say is one of the
world’s fastest melting glaciers. … “You’re talking
about one of the world’s largest freshwater sources,” said
Ashley Johnson, energy program manager at the National Bureau
of Asian Research, an American think tank.
Insect populations in the tropics are facing a crisis as global
warming drives up temperatures, causing a 98 percent decline in
their numbers over the last four decades. Those are the
findings of a new study published this week in
the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which
suggests that climate change is disrupting the global ecosystem
at an accelerating pace.
In a stark report that indicates previous assessments of
potential climate change damages were too conservative, climate
scientists outlined repercussions from two possible planetary
futures, one considerably worse than the other. Severe economic
and ecological shocks, including risks to health, food
security, and water supplies, will happen sooner than expected
if global temperatures continue to rise, according to a report
from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
that was released October 8.
Most visitors walking along the Embarcadero on San Francisco’s
famed waterfront are familiar with the Ferry Building, the
Giants ballpark, the Exploratorium and Fisherman’s Wharf. But
few might realize that none of those attractions would be
possible without a low-profile workhorse that holds everything
together: the Embarcadero Seawall, an aging, 3-mile-long,
rock-and-concrete structure that rebuffs pounding tides and
enabled the city to rise atop the tidal mudflats of San
Remember when the eminent scientist Jor-El warned the council
of Krypton that the planet would explode, and sooner rather
than later? And they didn’t believe him, but it happened
anyway? Pardon my [Jon Brooks] glib intro, but you have to
reach into the world of comic books to describe the kind of
global catastrophic negligence the recently released U.N.
climate report has now put on the record.
The federal judge who in 2016 cleared a constitutional climate
case for trial in Eugene has reiterated her position that the
youth-led matter should be decided in court. U.S. District
Judge Ann Aiken on Monday issued a long-awaited decision that
keeps intact the central claims of a lawsuit that asserts the
federal government’s policies regarding the use of fossil fuels
are contributing to global warming and violating the rights of
21 youth plaintiffs who first sued the government in 2015.
Higher temperatures, more intense droughts and more
damaging wildfires and floods are just some of the climate
change effects already being seen in the California
desert — and residents of low-income, minority communities
in the Coachella Valley are most likely to suffer the
consequences of those environmental stresses. That was one of
the takeaways from a series of presentations by scientific
experts last week at UC Riverside’s Palm Desert campus.
Despite what President Donald Trump says, scientists have long
known that what’s warming the planet isn’t natural. It’s us.
They even have the energy balance sheets accounting for changes
in the climate to prove it. President Trump’s own White House
put out a science report last year concluding that “the likely
range of the human contribution to the global mean temperature
increase over the period 1951-2010 is 1.1 to 1.4 F (0.6 to 0.8
If horrific hurricanes and a new, scarier-than-ever United
Nations report don’t change attitudes on climate change,
perhaps a new report on barley will. A small international team
of scientists considered what the effect of climate change
would be for this crop in the next 80 years, and they are
raising an alarm they hope will pierce the din of political
In June and September of 2017, two heat waves killed at least
14 people in the Bay Area, and sent hundreds more to the
hospital. San Francisco was caught off guard, says the city’s
deputy director of public health, Naveena Bobba.
Samuel Western writes about the Mountain West. He said rural
parts of the region are often reluctant to embrace climate
change because it doesn’t come up that often in everyday
conversation. “If you live in a more urban environment you are
exposed to more ideas, but we tend to live fairly siloed in
Wyoming,” said Western. “And a lot of people come here for that
A state of emergency was declared for the bayfront
community of Belvedere after investigation of a damaged seawall
revealed the problem is larger than the city had realized.
Consulting engineers told the city late last month it should
act immediately to prevent the seawall along Beach Road — which
protects the area from flooding — from shifting any further or
collapsing into San Francisco Bay.
You won’t be seeing much of California’s gubernatorial
candidates this fall — at least, you won’t be seeing much of
them together. The only debate between Democrat Gavin Newsom
and Republican John Cox took place on KQED’s Forum radio
program Monday. Prompted by host Scott Shafer, the two had a
lengthy exchange about the state’s approach to climate change.
The federal government is again asking a judge to suspend
proceedings in a climate case scheduled to go to trial in
Eugene on Oct. 29. Government attorneys on Friday filed a
motion in U.S. District Court in Eugene requesting a stay
pending Supreme Court review of the case, which is brought by
21 young people with the support of Eugene nonprofit group Our
One of the report’s contributors said predicted temperature
increases will be greater in the semi-arid climate of the
American West. Diana Liverman, a professor of geography and
development at the University of Arizona, said this would lead
to even more intense heat waves, droughts, fires and downpours
than California is already experiencing.
The phrase “climate change” did not appear on the agenda of a
recent three-day meeting of the Colorado Water Congress, but
the topic was often front and center at the conference, as it
increasingly is at water meetings around the state and the
region. Amy Haas, the new executive director of the Upper
Colorado River Commission, told the Water Congress audience of
about 300 water managers, irrigators, engineers and lawyers
that “hydrology is changing more rapidly than we once thought”
and that “it is primarily due to climate change.”
In the exact spot where Hurricane Katrina demolished the
Plaquemines Parish Detention Center, a new $105 million jail
now hovers 19 feet above the marsh, perched atop towering
concrete pillars. Described by a state official as the “Taj
Mahal” of Louisiana corrections, it has so much space that one
of every 27 parish residents could bunk there.
In the 728-page document, the U.N. organization detailed how
Earth’s weather, health and ecosystems would be in better shape
if the world’s leaders could somehow limit future human-caused
warming to just 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit (a half degree Celsius)
from now, instead of the globally agreed-upon goal of 1.8
degrees F (1 degree C). Among other things: — Half as many
people would suffer from lack of water.
One of our most popular events, our annual Water 101 Workshop
details the history, geography, legal and political facets
of water in California as well as hot topics currently facing the
Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the
state, the one-day workshop on Feb. 7 gave attendees a
deeper understanding of the state’s most precious natural
Optional Groundwater Tour
On Feb. 8, we jumped aboard a bus to explore groundwater, a key
resource in California. Led by Foundation staff and groundwater
Harter and Carl Hauge, retired DWR chief hydrogeologist, the
tour visited cities and farms using groundwater, examined a
subsidence measuring station and provided the latest updates
on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
McGeorge School of Law
3327 5th Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95817
Ramping up wind power in America would also dial up the
nation’s temperatures, a new study out of Harvard found. While
wind energy is widely celebrated as environmentally friendly,
the researchers concluded that a dramatic, all-out expansion in
the number of turbines could warm the country even more than
climate change from burning coal and other fossil fuels,
because of the way the spinning blades disturb the layers of
warm and cold air in the atmosphere.
Torrential rainfall lashed Japan in July. A cloudburst in
August submerged entire villages in south India. In September,
Hurricane Florence burst dams and lagoons, with coal ash and
pig waste spilling into the waterways of North Carolina. On the
other side of the planet, a typhoon walloped the Philippines
and ravaged the country’s staple crop, rice.
In Incheon, South Korea, this week, representatives of over 130
countries and about 50 scientists have packed into a large
conference center going over every line of an all-important
report: What chance does the planet have of keeping climate
change to a moderate, controllable level?
In an election year that has included alarming portents of
global warming — record wildfires in the West, 500-year floods
in the East, a president walking away from a global climate
accord — the one place that climate change rarely appears at
all is in the campaigns of candidates for the House and Senate.
He is among more than 80 farmers now engaged in a state-funded
program aimed at increasing carbon concentrations in
California’s soil. Part of the state’s overarching goal of
curbing greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate climate change,
the California Healthy Soils Initiative took effect a year ago,
when the state’s cap-and-trade program made $7.5 million
available in small grants to farmers like Poncia. This year,
the Healthy Soils Program, one component of the initiative, is
receiving about $15 million.
As calendars turn from September to October, cooler weather may
give many Californians the idea that the brutal fire season of
2018 is over. But nothing could be further from the truth,
according to fire experts and state fire statistics. October is
actually the most dangerous month historically for wildfire
risk in the state.
Last month, deep in a 500-page environmental impact statement,
the Trump administration made a startling assumption: On its
current course, the planet will warm a disastrous 7 degrees by
the end of this century. A rise of 7 degrees Fahrenheit, or
about 4 degrees Celsius, compared with preindustrial levels
would be catastrophic, according to scientists.
The Atlantic’s warmer waters triggered the unusual number of
major hurricanes last year, according to a new study that
predicts the region could see a couple of extra whopper storms
each year by the end of the century.
Loren Poncia’s idling pickup shudders in a powerful gust of
afternoon wind in western Marin County. Inside the warm cab, he
scans the sun-browned hills through his binoculars, counting
his grazing cows. Poncia raises beef cattle. As he sees it,
though, what he is really doing is raising soil. … He is
among more than 80 farmers now engaged in a state-funded
program aimed at increasing carbon concentrations in
Off the north coast of Scotland, Orkney’s soft green landscapes
hold a trove of things from everyday life before history was
written. More than 3,000 archaeological sites — among them
standing stone circles, Norse halls and a Neolithic tomb
graffitied by Vikings — have endured for millenniums, scattered
across the roughly 70 islands that make up the Orkney
There’s the punk rocker, the animal lover and the shy
performer. A future educator, a taekwondo black belt and an
outdoorsman also are part of the group. All six young people
from Eugene are among 21 youth plaintiffs suing the federal
government in an unprecedented, constitutional climate change
lawsuit that seeks to overhaul the nation’s energy system.
The lush plains east of Yosemite National Park offer a window
into a bygone California — a place where sage grouse welcome
the arrival of spring with theatrical mating rituals and cattle
graze on verdant pastures. For nearly a century, these lands
have been made green thanks to annual flooding by the Los
Angeles Department of Water and Power, helping maintain cattle
forage and keeping alive a culture of ranching in southern Mono
America’s national parks are warming up and drying out faster
than other U.S. landscapes, threatening iconic ecosystems from
the Everglades in Florida to Joshua Tree in California to
Denali in Alaska. That’s the conclusion of a new climate change
study published Monday, the first to examine rainfall and
temperatures in all 417 national parks sites.
Gavin Newsom and John Cox both drive zero-emission Teslas.
That’s about where the common ground ends between California’s
candidates for governor when it comes to the environment. …
Cox opposes as a “boondoggle” [Gov. Jerry] Brown’s $17 billion
proposal to move water from Northern California to Southern
California through twin tunnels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin
River Delta. … Newsom backs a one-tunnel option as more
In the years since 2013, when Utah forged the first office
championing outdoor recreation, a deluge of states has
followed. Last year, the number of states with an
outdoor-recreation office or task force doubled to 11, and more
are forming, building momentum for an industry that is flexing
its burgeoning economic and political might. And the industry’s
hopes for bolstering its legitimacy and muscle were pinned on
California, home of the country’s largest economy and one of
its most vibrant outdoor cultures.
As if this past summer of merciless heat waves, droughts and
megafires were not warning enough, in the past several days the
elements sounded another alarm about the state of a world made
warmer by the burning of fossil fuels. It came in the form of a
one-two punch of wind and rainfall from Hurricane Florence,
which like Hurricane Harvey a year ago, has derived much of its
wallop from unusually warm ocean waters and stalled weather
systems linked to climate change.
The Colorado River watershed faces increasing challenges from
chronic water shortage. And it appears increasingly likely this
is a new permanent condition, not an episodic drought. … Jack
Schmidt, a professor of watershed sciences at Utah State
University, is about to start a large new research project to
explore reservoir operations in the watershed.
[Mayor Jackie] Biskupski says Salt Lake feels the effects of
climate change with low snowpack, drought conditions and
wildfire smoke. She plans to join other mayors to sign the
“Deadline 2020” pledge to reduce global emissions.
California Gov. Jerry Brown, whose term expires in January, has
made renewable energy and climate change a centerpiece of his
final term. This week, he co-hosts a global climate summit in
San Francisco. On Friday, he discussed the issue in an
interview with San Jose Mercury News resources and environment
writer Paul Rogers.
During the first 18 months of the Trump administration, records
show, nearly 1,600 workers left the EPA, while fewer than 400
were hired. The exodus has shrunk the agency’s workforce by
8 percent, to levels not seen since the Reagan
California stands at the center of innovative efforts to
develop carbon-capture and removal technologies. State
officials have begun working them into their climate action
plans. And this month, when Gov. Jerry Brown welcomes officials
from around the world to a global climate conference in San
Francisco, the question of how far world leaders should move
toward embracing such ideas will be a major focus.
Warming temperatures are sapping the Colorado River, the water
source for more than 40 million people in the southwest. A new
study finds over the last 100 years the river’s flow has
decreased by more than 15 percent. Colorado State University
researcher Brad Udall co-authored the study with UCLA
scientists Mu Xiao and Dennis Lettenmaier.
As California lawmakers struggled this week to address an
apparent new normal of epic wildfires, there was an inescapable
subtext: Climate change is going to be staggeringly expensive,
and virtually every Californian is going to have to pay for it.
On his first official trip to the U.S. territories, Interior
Secretary Ryan Zinke could face stark climate change concerns.
What he’ll heed is up to him. But with his geology degree from
the University of Oregon and his beach-crawling background as a
former Navy SEAL, Zinke, in theory, could bring the right kind
of baggage on his upcoming trip.
Heat waves will grow more severe and persistent, shortening the
lives of thousands of Californians. Wildfires will burn more of
the state’s forests. The ocean will rise higher and faster,
exposing California to billions in damage along the
coast. These are some of the threats California will face
from climate change in coming decades, according to a new
statewide assessment released Monday by the California Natural
Bad news for the West: Even after firefighters have already
battled 101 large blazes this year, the remainder of wildfire
season is expected to be hotter and drier than normal,
virtually assuring there will be more destruction ahead,
scientists for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration said Thursday.
As temperatures rise in the U.S. West, so do the flames. The
years with the most acres burned by wildfires have some of the
hottest temperatures, an Associated Press analysis of fire and
weather data found.
Trump administration officials unveiled a new plan Thursday to
reduce the risk of forest fires, acknowledging “the urgent need
to dramatically increase preventative forest treatment” that
can keep fires from burning out of control. The plan, which
emphasizes state and local collaboration, was short on details,
California suffered through its hottest July on record, while
August has pushed sea-surface temperatures off the San Diego
coast to all-time highs. Are these punishing summer heat waves
the consequences of global warming or the result of familiar
Two top officials of the Trump administration, winding up a
tour of fire-ravaged Redding, insisted Monday that removing
dead trees and thinning forests, not addressing climate change,
are the keys to dealing with California wildfires.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, touring neighborhoods devastated
by the Carr Fire, stepped up the Trump administration’s push
Sunday to remove more trees from national forests as a means of
tamping down fire risks. “We need to manage our forests, we
need to reduce the fuels,” Zinke said as he overlooked
Whiskeytown Lake in the vicinity where the Carr Fire began July
This summer of fire and swelter looks a lot like
the futurethat scientists have been warning about in the
era of climate change, and it’s revealing in real time how
unprepared much of the world remains for life on a hotter
planet. … For Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the
University of California Los Angeles, it vindicates the
scientific community’s mathematical models.
Amy Haas recently became the first non-engineer and the first woman to serve as executive director of the Upper Colorado River Commission in its 70-year history, putting her smack in the center of a host of daunting challenges facing the Upper Colorado River Basin.
Yet those challenges will be quite familiar to Haas, an attorney who for the past year has served as deputy director and general counsel of the commission. (She replaced longtime Executive Director Don Ostler). She has a long history of working within interstate Colorado River governance, including representing New Mexico as its Upper Colorado River commissioner and playing a central role in the negotiation of the recently signed U.S.-Mexico agreement known as Minute 323.
In 1908, biologist Joseph Grinnell began leading hundreds of
research expeditions throughout California to collect animals
as museum specimens and catalog the wildlife in the forests,
mountains and deserts. The meticulous notes he and his
colleague took over four decades captured scientific snapshots
of the wildlife in the first half of the 20th century,
including surveys of birds in many areas of the Mojave
Experts studying the blazes that have ravaged California in
recent years have reached a troubling realization: There are
several reasons fire seasons are getting worse, and we’re
almost completely to blame for all of them.
The Karuk Tribe and UC Berkeley are launching a $1.2 million
study to determine how to best protect native foods and
resources in the face of a changing climate and a history of
environmental degradation in the mid-Klamath River Basin.
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the case, which
was first brought by a group of 21 young people, can go
forward. The result could be a historic climate change decision
that will affect every American. The lawsuit dates to 2015,
when the young plaintiffs (they now range in age from 10 to 21)
first filed suit against the Obama administration.
When President Trump sent his first tweet about the current
California wildfires, which have killed nine people and
destroyed more than 1,000 homes, he chose the moment to zero in
on water policy — leaving some scratching their heads.
A thin layer of smoke has stretched across Sacramento for the
past week, coming from the deadly wildfires burning to the
north and east. The smoke serves as a powerful reminder of a
topic likely to dominate the work of lawmakers returning to the
state Capitol this week.
Much of the heat that’s gripped California and hastened the
spread of deadly wildfires recently is due to a strange but
familiar shift in the jet stream — one that’s haunted the West
with threatening fire conditions in the past and could cause
more hot, dry spells in the future, especially with a changing
As fire crews struggled to gain containment on more than a
dozen wildfires raging across California on Wednesday, Gov.
Jerry Brown told reporters that large, destructive fires would
probably continue and cost the state billions of dollars over
the next decade.
Editor’s Note This narrative by Nathaniel Rich is a work of
history, addressing the 10-year period from 1979 to 1989: the
decisive decade when humankind first came to a broad
understanding of the causes and dangers of climate change.
Complementing the text is a series of aerial photographs and
videos, all shot over the past year by George Steinmetz.
Rising temperatures that are contributing to wildfires and
droughts are also changing the world’s soil so that it pumps
out more carbon dioxide, a “feedback loop” that could aggravate
climate change, according to a study published Wednesday in the
The northern Sacramento Valley was well on its way to recording
the hottest July on record when the Carr fire swept into town
Thursday. It was 113 degrees, and months of above-average
temperatures had left the land bone-dry and ready to explode.
The U.S. Supreme Court expressed qualms Monday about the scope
of a climate-change lawsuit by 21 young people against the
government, but rejected the Trump administration’s request to
block a trial of the unprecedented suit that accuses federal
officials of endangering their futures by failing to act
against global warming.
This summer has witnessed an explosion of algae problems in
Western water bodies. Usually marked by a bright green mat of
floating scum, the blooms are unsightly and unpleasant for
water lovers. More concerning are potentially toxic
cyanobacteria often produced by the algae, which can be deadly
to pets and livestock and cause illnesses in people.
As flames from the Ferguson Fire burn closer to some of the
world’s oldest and largest trees, firefighters are racing to
protect ancient sequoias on Yosemite National Park’s western
edge. About 25 Yosemite firefighters have surrounded Merced
Grove — whose immense trees tower more than 200 feet tall and
date back 1,000 years — with fire hoses.
Climate change is gradually warming Lake Tahoe, clouding its
clarity and threatening its fabled “blueness,” scientists at UC
Davis warned Thursday. In its annual “State of the Lake”
report, the university’s Tahoe Environmental Research Center
said surface water temperatures in July 2017 spiked to an
average 68.4 degrees.
California’s top climate regulator will continue serving
through 2020 under a plan set to be voted on Thursday. Mary
Nichols, who has led the California Air Resources Board since
2007, would see her term expire at the end of 2020 if the
board’s members confirm staff recommendations at the
A federal judge on Thursday tossed out a lawsuit filed by New
York City that wanted to force oil companies such as
ExxonMobil, Chevron and ConocoPhillips to pay for damages
related to global warming. The decision comes a little more
than three weeks after a federal judge in California dismissed
suits filed by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland.
Even trusting your local weather announcer is political these
days. Take the battle in Congress over the renewal of a grant
to help television meteorologists incorporate climate change
into their weather reporting.
If the Ferguson Fire currently burning in Mariposa County
spreads to Yosemite National Park, a tiny bug resembling a
mouse dropping would share some of the blame. An epidemic of
bark beetles is devastating billions of pine trees across the
West in what has been described as the largest forest insect
outbreak ever recorded.
Rising levels of carbon dioxide from car and factory exhaust —
which scientists say is the primary cause of global warming —
could contribute to the killing off of monarch butterflies by
reducing the medicinal qualities of the plants they eat, a new
study has found.
A colleague once observed, many years ago, that California has
two seasons. Green and brown. We are in the latter, and
death has visited my [Steve Lopez] neighborhood this summer.
Half the ground cover in my frontyard has burned to a crunchy
crisp. … The Los Angeles-area forecast offers no
A century ago, the island town of Drawbridge held 90 homes,
hotels and cabins, with hunting so bountiful that dead ducks
served as currency at its gambling tables. Now — in a rare act
of reverse colonization — civilization is ceding to the
elements in this windswept marsh, located near Alviso at
the southern end of San Francisco Bay. Rising tides flood a
dozen or so surviving skeletal structures.
The dense network of cables that make up the Internet is likely
to be inundated with saltwater as sea levels rise, a new
analysis suggests, putting thousands of miles of critical
infrastructure along U.S. coastlines underwater in the next 15
years. “It is actually the wires and the hardware that make the
Internet run,” explains Ramakrishnan Durairajan, a computer
scientist at the University of Oregon and an author of the
For years, there has been a movement in California to restore
floodplains, by moving levees back from rivers and planting
trees, shrubs and grasses in the low-lying land between. The
goal has been to go back in time, to bring back some of the
habitat for birds, animals and fish that existed before the
state was developed.
Long before President Trump nominated him for the Supreme Court
on Monday, Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh had already made a name for
himself as an influential conservative critic of sweeping
From the normally mild summer climes of Ireland, Scotland and
Canada to the scorching Middle East, numerous locations in the
Northern Hemisphere have witnessed their hottest weather ever
recorded over the past week. Large areas of heat pressure or
heat domes scattered around the hemisphere led to the
When dust storms began rising off the dry bed of Owens Lake,
authorities in the Eastern Sierra blamed Los Angeles’ thirst.
The city had, after all, drained the lake in the 1920s to serve
its faucets. Now, as dust kicks up from Mono Lake, authorities
in the Eastern Sierra are once again blaming that water-craving
metropolis about 350 miles to the south. But this time, they’re
also blaming climate change.
California lawmakers may make it easier for utilities to reduce
liability for wildfire damage as the state braces for more
severe blazes in the face of climate change. The changes would
apply only to future fires, not the ones that swept across
California’s wine country last year — the most devastating in
Sixty percent of California’s developed water supply
originates high in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Our water
supply is largely dependent on the health of our Sierra forests,
which are suffering from ecosystem degradation, drought,
wildfires and widespread tree mortality.
We headed into the foothills and the mountains to examine
water issues that happen upstream but have dramatic impacts
downstream and throughout the state.
GEI (Tour Starting Point)
2868 Prospect Park Dr.
Rancho Cordova, CA 95670.
The retirement of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy
next month is likely to reshape the high court to the detriment
of the environment, legal experts say, potentially limiting
progress on such issues as climate change and clean water, even
in California, where leaders have long pursued an environmental
agenda independent of Washington.
A federal judge earlier this week may have tossed out a lawsuit
brought by officials for the cities of San Francisco and
Oakland, seeking to hold oil companies such as Chevron, BP and
ExxonMobil liable for any costs related to climate change, but
the mayor of Imperial Beach says a similar lawsuit his town is
taking part in will proceed.
From South Africa’s drought-stricken vineyards, to France’s
noble chateaus, to sunny vineyards in Australia and California
, growers and winemakers say they are seeing the effects of
climate change as temperatures rise, with swings in weather
patterns becoming more severe. So they are taking action,
moving to cooler zones, planting varieties that do better in
the heat, and shading their grapes with more leaf canopy.
It’s not just beaches and sand that are disappearing as the
ocean pushes inland. Sea level rise is also eating away at
California’s coastal cliffs. The question is by how much, as
Californians have heavily developed and continue to build along
the edge of the Pacific.
The Trump administration appears to be planning to shift the
mission of one of the most important federal science agencies
that works on climate change — away from climate change. The
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is part
of the Department of Commerce, operates a constellation of
The Trump administration has appointed Republican Mike Stoker
for the position [Environmental Protection Agency Region 9
administrator]. … KQED Science recently spoke with him
at his office in San Francisco. He said a top priority for him
is to deal with sewage pollution at the US-Mexico border.
A U.S. judge who held a hearing about climate change that
received widespread attention ruled Monday that Congress and
the president were best suited to address the contribution of
fossil fuels to global warming, throwing out lawsuits that
sought to hold big oil companies liable for the Earth’s
More than two years after the 2015-16 Dungeness and rock crab
seasons in California was marred by toxic algae blooms, the
federal government this week has allocated $25.8M in disaster
funds to relieve fishermen and businesses affected by the
closure. The Yurok Tribe was also allocated nearly $4M in
disaster relief for its 2016 commercial salmon season, which
was closed due to low numbers of returning spawners.
Since the early 1980s, climate change had warmed the Gulf of
Maine’s cool waters to the ideal temperature for lobsters,
which has helped grow Maine’s fishery fivefold to a
half-billion-dollar industry, among the most valuable in the
United States. But last year the state’s lobster landings
dropped by 22 million pounds, to 111 million.
An executive order signed by President Trump late Tuesday
eliminates an uncelebrated but far-reaching review process put
in place eight years ago among state, tribal and federal
agencies to better coordinate ocean policy in the wake of the
devastating Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
As the level of carbon dioxide in the air continues to rise
because of climate change, scientists are trying to pin down
how the plants we eat are being impacted. Mounting evidence
suggests that many key plants lose nutritional value at higher
CO2 levels, and scientists are running experiments all over the
world to try to tease out the effects.
David Inouye is an accidental climate scientist. More than 40
years ago, the University of Maryland biologist started
studying when wildflowers, birds, bees and butterflies first
appeared each spring on this mountain.
That oceanfront property in Stinson Beach you’ve dreamed about
may not be so perfect after all. A report published Monday
finds that nearly 4,400 homes in Marin County might not make it
beyond a 30-year mortgage because of encroaching seawater.
Nowhere is the domino effect in
Western water policy played out more than on the Colorado River,
and specifically when it involves the Lower Basin states of
California, Nevada and Arizona. We are seeing that play out now
as the three states strive to forge a Drought Contingency Plan.
Yet that plan can’t be finalized until Arizona finds a unifying
voice between its major water players, an effort you can read
more about in the latest in-depth article of Western Water.
Even then, there are some issues to resolve just within
New York City’s attempt to hold five of the world’s biggest oil
companies responsible for damage from global warming didn’t
seem to impress a judge during oral arguments Wednesday to
determine if a lawsuit can proceed. … The January
lawsuit came after similar litigation was filed by the cities
of San Francisco, Oakland and Santa Cruz in California.
The U.S. record $18 billion wildfire season of 2017 was
triggered by the coincidence of three primary factors that came
into play or persisted longer than anticipated, according to a
new study led by a researcher at the University of
Colorado. Those “switches,” according to study leader
Jennifer Balch, were ignition, aridity and fuel.
This small rectangle of wetland near the San Francisco Bay in
San Lorenzo doesn’t look particularly visionary. Above ground,
it’s an appealing – if unusually orderly – array of meadows,
cattails and willows. But there’s far more here than meets the
eye. This modest strip of land, just 38 by 150 feet, in the Oro
Loma Sanitary District promises to help solve two of the Bay
Area’s most pressing concerns: sea-level rise and nutrient
Record heat returned to the United States with a vengeance in
May. May warmed to a record average 65.4 degrees in the Lower
48 states, breaking the high of 64.7 set in 1934, according to
federal weather figures released Wednesday. May was 5.2 degrees
above the 20th century’s average for the month.
Four statewide ballot propositions were passing in California
on Tuesday, while an effort to control spending of funds
collected through the state’s climate change program appeared
headed toward a defeat.
Deputies with a Lake Tahoe patrol crew helped recover a
malfunctioning robot deployed by UC Davis researchers to study
climate change, Placer County Sheriff’s Office reported Sunday
on Facebook. And it’s a good thing they picked it up before
someone else did, because the yellow-and-blue device bears a
fairly strong resemblance to a torpedo.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board,
in a rebuke to the Trump administration’s retreat on
environmental protection, voted overwhelmingly Thursday in
favor of a full board review of the agency’s most important
actions to dismantle climate policy.
In an interview, Gov. Jerry Brown acknowledged the hope felt by
many climate activists because of efforts from states like his
and by private companies. But he also said the world is only
just beginning to feel the environmental harm inflicted by the
You can shove water back from the land, or let the land flood,
but either way, San Francisco Bay is getting higher. Along more
than 400 miles of bayfront, in at least forty communities that
touch water, the once-sneaky problem of sea level rise is
revealing itself as it accelerates.
Backing away from attempts at censorship, the National Park
Service today released a report charting the risks to
national parks from sea level rise and storms. Drafts of
the report obtained earlier this year by Reveal from The Center
for Investigative Reporting showed park service officials had
deleted every mention of humans causing climate change. But the
long-delayed report, published today without fanfare on the
agency’s website, restored those references.
Eight years ago, Marin County created a new kind of public
power agency in California — over the strenuous objections
of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. … Community choice
allows local governments to band together in something like a
buyer’s club for electricity, purchasing in bulk from operators
of power plants, wind farms, hydroelectric dams and solar
facilities. Each community choice program’s governing board
sets its own electricity rates.
Five of the world’s largest oil producers urged a federal judge
Thursday to dismiss lawsuits by San Francisco and Oakland that
seek to hold the companies liable for climate change, arguing
that the issue is one for Congress, not the courts.
Fighting global warming is starting to sound like a lucrative
investment. A new study out of Stanford University finds that
keeping global warming a half-degree beneath the Paris climate
agreement’s 2 degree Celsius target could potentially save more
than $20 trillion globally.
We traveled deep into California’s
water hub and traverse the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a
720,000-acre network of islands and canals that supports the
state’s water system and is California’s most crucial water and
ecological resource. The tour made its way to San Francisco Bay,
and included a ferry ride.
For years now, thousands of studies have linked rising sea
levels to climate change. But one Republican congressman had an
alternate explanation he floated this week during a meeting of
the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology with
leading climate scientist Philip Duffy.
Marine life across North America will experience a substantial
shift northward over the next few decades, according to a new
comprehensive report that looks at how climate change will
alter the habitats of 686 marine species.
Using measurements from Earth-observing satellites, NASA
scientists have tracked changes in water supplies worldwide and
they’ve found that in many places humans are dramatically
altering the global water map. … Their findings in a new
study reveal that of the 34 “hotspots” of water change in
places from California to China, the trends in about two-thirds
of those areas may be linked to climate change or human
activities, such as excessive groundwater pumping in farming
A new study from NASA reinforces the idea that droughts are
getting worse and could become more frequent in the Western
U.S. The culprit is human-caused climate change. Droughts
aren’t just about precipitation, said NASA scientist and the
study’s co-author Benjamin Cook.
This spring in California several orchards around Solano and
nearby counties sported a new look: lush carpets of mixed
grasses growing as tall as 3ft beneath the trees’ bare
branches. By summer the scene will change as farmers grow and
harvest their nut crops, but the work of the grasses will
continue unseen. Cover cropping, an agricultural technique as
old as dirt, is taking root in California.
Imagine the snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains as a giant
reservoir providing water for 23 million people throughout
California. During droughts, this snow reserve shrinks,
affecting water availability in the state.
Warmer days — and nights. Rising sea levels. Less water
available in summer. A report released Wednesday by state
officials says climate change is affecting California’s
ecosystem already in ways great and small.
Some 950 wildfires have burned more than 5,800 acres of
California so far this year, and residents need to recognize
that fire, as a result of a host of factors including climate
change, is now a year-round threat, Cal Fire Director Ken
Bigger, more intense forest fires, longer droughts, warmer
ocean temperatures and an ever shrinking snowpack in the Sierra
Nevada are “unequivocal” evidence of the ruinous domino-effects
that climate change is having on California, a new California
Environmental Protection Agency report states.
Arizona’s largest water provider tried Tuesday to defuse a
multi-state dispute over the Colorado River, saying it
regretted the belligerent-sounding words it used to describe
its management strategy for the critical, over-used waterway.
… It also pledged to cooperate on drawing up a
multi-state plan for possible shortages in the river, which
appear more and more likely because of the drought and climate
Since the 1940s, the Hawaiian island of Kauai has endured two
tsunamis and two hurricanes, but locals say they have never
experienced anything like the thunderstorm that drenched the
island this month. “The rain gauge in Hanalei broke at 28
inches within 24 hours,” said state Rep. Nadine Nakamura of the
North Shore community.
State regulators are urging local elected officials to brace
for retreat as scientists continue to predict sea levels will
rise in coming decades and pummel beachfront communities from
San Diego to Arcata.
A world-class snowboarder, former Navy SEAL Josh Jespersen
served for four years in Afghanistan and Iraq. … Now he’s
undertaking a different kind of expedition — urging
mountain-state politicians to take seriously the threat of
climate change, and working to vote them out of office if they
California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is vital to water
supplies for 25 million people and 4 million acres of farmland.
It is linked to the Pacific Ocean via San Francisco Bay, which
makes this water supply uniquely vulnerable to sea level rise.
Yet understanding sea level rise in the Delta is complicated.
A primary goal of Drawdown is to help people who feel
overwhelmed by gloom-and-doom messages see that reversing
global warming is bursting with possibility: walkable cities,
afforestation, bamboo, high-rises built of wood, marine
permaculture, multistrata agroforestry, clean cookstoves,
plant-rich diet, assisting women smallholders, regenerative
agriculture, supporting girls’ ongoing education, smart glass,
in-stream hydro, on and on.
A wave of legal challenges that is washing over the oil and gas
industry, demanding accountability for climate change, started
as a ripple after revelations that ExxonMobil had long
recognized the threat fossil fuels pose to the world.
The extreme weather swings experienced by Californians the past
six years — a historic drought followed by drenching winter
storms that caused $100 million in damage to San Jose and
wrecked the spillway at Oroville Dam — will become the norm
over coming generations, a new study has found.
President Trump has aimed to undo much of the Obama
administration’s policy on energy and climate. … One could
argue that any of the leading candidates in the 2016 Republican
primary would have taken similar actions in the climate and
energy space. What is needed now, we argue, is momentum toward
bipartisan climate legislation in Congress that could outlast
the back-and-forth on regulations.
Californians should expect more dramatic swings between dry and
wet years as the climate warms, according to a new study that
found it likely that the state will be hit by devastating,
widespread flooding in coming decades.
From oil spills to rat-infested nesting sites to fishing nets,
seabirds have long faced a wide range of threats to their
survival. One study of monitored populations found a 70 percent
drop in their numbers since 1950. More recently, climate change
has added another challenge for seabirds: As global warming
accelerates, they’re increasingly out of sync with their prey.
In 2007, at Jeff Creque’s behest, John Wick got in touch with
Whendee Silver, an ecologist at the University of California,
Berkeley. Letting cows graze on his property had certainly made
the land look healthier, he told Silver. But he and Creque
wanted to know: Had it put carbon in the ground? And if so, was
it possible to measure how much?
We explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop
of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad
sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in
the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin
states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this
water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial
needs was the focus of this tour.
Hampton Inn Tropicana
4975 Dean Martin Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89118
Furry, button-nosed and dependent on sea ice for their
survival, polar bears have long been poster animals for climate
change. But at a time when established climate science is being
questioned at the highest levels of government, climate
denialists are turning the charismatic bears to their own uses,
capitalizing on their symbolic heft to spread doubts about the
threat of global warming.
Californians may collectively be breathing a sigh of relief,
but not elation, this week, after the state’s latest snowpack
reading. A wet and cold March saved California from a near
record-low snowpack, but it proved too little too late to bring
a full recovery. And worse, climate scientists say we should
start getting used to these low snowpack years.
Every year, as the seasons change, a complex ballet unfolds
around the world. Trees in the Northern Hemisphere leaf out in
the spring as frost recedes. Caterpillars hatch to gorge on
leaves. Bees and butterflies emerge to pollinate flowers.
Learn what new tree-ring studies in
Southern California watersheds reveal about drought, hear about
efforts to improve subseasonal to seasonal weather forecasting
and get the latest on climate change impacts that will alter
drought vulnerability in the future.
At our Paleo
Drought Workshop on April 19th in San Pedro, you will hear
from experts at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, University of
Arizona and California Department of Water Resources.
Depending on where in the West you are, this winter was either
a winner or a big bust: Montana, for example, is swathed in
snow while parts of the Southwest are dismally bare. As of late
March, the Upper Colorado River Basin snowpack was well below
For the next two months, swaths of Ocean Beach in San Francisco
will bear a certain resemblance to a life-size playground
sandbox. Each weekday through the end of May, bulldozers,
backhoes and dump trucks will dig up and ferry 75,000 tons of
sand south from the beach’s northern shores in an effort to
temporarily replenish precious coastline lost to the forces of
nature and accelerated by the effect of climate change.
Dramatic swings in weather patterns
over the past few years in California are stark reminders of
climate variability and regional vulnerability. Alternating years
of drought and intense rain events make long-term planning for
storing and distributing water a challenging task.
Current weather forecasting capabilities provide details for
short time horizons. Attend the Paleo Drought
Workshop in San Pedro on April 19 to learn more about
research efforts to improve sub-seasonal to seasonal
precipitation forecasting, known as S2S, and how those models
could provide more useful weather scenarios for resource
Next week, a Silicon Valley engineer plans to head out on a
snowmobile from Barrow, on the northern tip of Alaska, to
sprinkle reflective sand on a patch of Arctic sea ice to try to
stop it from melting. It’s part of a journey that began in
2006, after Leslie Field watched the climate change documentary
“An Inconvenient Truth” and felt like she’d been “hit by a big
In an unprecedented “tutorial” before a federal judge
Wednesday, a lawyer for a major U.S. oil company accepted the
scientific consensus that humans are the primary cause of
global climate change. But he also emphasized uncertainties
about future impacts, while deflecting industry responsibility.
… Wednesday’s hearing was videotaped, and may be
viewable by Thursday at the court’s website, http://www.cand.uscourts.gov/home.
After Donald Trump won the presidential election, hundreds of
volunteers around the U.S. came together to “rescue” federal
data on climate change, thought to be at risk under the new
administration. “Guerilla archivists,” including ourselves,
gathered to archive federal websites and preserve scientific
A federal judge presiding over lawsuits that accuse big oil
companies of lying about global warming to protect their
profits is turning his courtroom into a classroom in what could
be the first hearing to study the science of climate change.
A federal judge in San Francisco Wednesday will preside over
the nation’s first-ever court hearing on the science of climate
change, but don’t expect it to be a “Scopes Trial” for global
warming research. The hearing stems from a state lawsuit that
San Francisco and Oakland filed against the world’s biggest oil
companies for their greenhouse gas emissions.
Ben Santer has clung to sheer granite walls. He’s hoisted
himself onto narrow ledges. He’s inched his way to survival out
of a deep, dark and deadly crevasse. Decades of stressful
high-stakes mountaineering have prepared the Lawrence Livermore
National Laboratory scientist for his latest perilous
challenge: refuting the Trump Administration’s denial of