News Analysis:

No far-off threat: Worldwide news reports illustrate climate’s change in real time


Sara Nevis / The Sacramento Bee via AP

The Caldor Fire burns near Kyburz, Calif., on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021. Climate change has made the West warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make the weather more extreme and wildfires more destructive.

Sun, Aug 29, 2021 (2 a.m.)

Living in Las Vegas this summer could at times feel like tumbling into a disaster movie.

We experienced a July heat wave that was intense even by our standards, with temperatures hitting 110 or higher for eight straight days and a 117-degree scorcher on July 10 that tied our record high. We endured poor air quality as smoke from Northern California wildfires drifted into the valley and settled like a noxious fog. We watched as the surface elevation at Lake Mead fell to a historic low level, triggering the first-ever water shortage declaration at the reservoir that serves as our lifeline in the desert.

So when the United Nations issued a report Aug. 9 saying climate change was accelerating, it may have not come as a complete surprise to many in our community. We’ve seen the quickening pace play out in the West for some time, through intensifying wildfires, deepening drought and spiraling temperatures.

As reported by the U.N., though, the effects of human-generated climate change are cascading across the planet, not just on a regional basis. It’s resulting in supercharged storms, ocean-level rise, widespread drought and fires that are causing mass migrations, disruptions of food production and wide scale deaths. And unless there’s urgent and drastic action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow the pace of global warming, the report’s authors said, what we’re seeing now will be mild compared to what’s coming even by the midcentury.

“This whiplash — this increase in both extreme wet and dry events — is projected to increase through the 21st century,” said Kim Cobb, one of the report authors and a paleoclimate scientist at Georgia Institute of Technology, in a story produced by National Public Radio.

How is the situation playing out day-to-day? Over the past several weeks, the Sun has been culling stories from Nevada, the West and beyond to show that climate change isn’t an abstraction or a far-off threat but rather is happening in real time. We present some of them today, not for shock value but to underscore the urgency of the situation and prompt our community to support actions to address global warming.

• • •

Headline: Many measures of Earth’s health are at worst levels on record, NOAA finds

Story: The Washington Post reports that across a number of metrics measuring climate change, the problem has reached historic levels.

Excerpt: While humanity grappled with the deadliest pandemic in a century, many metrics of the planet’s health showed catastrophic decline in 2020.

Average global temperatures rivaled the hottest. Mysterious sources of methane sent atmospheric concentrations of the gas spiking to unprecedented highs. Sea levels were the highest on record; fires ravaged the American West; and locusts swarmed across East Africa.

“It’s a record that keeps playing over and over again,” said Jessica Blunden, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climate scientist who has co-led “State of the Climate” reports for 11 years. “Things are getting more and more intense every year because emissions are happening every year.”

• • •

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People walk across a washed out road Sunday, Aug. 22, 2021, in Waverly, Tenn. Heavy rains caused flooding Saturday in Middle Tennessee and have resulted in multiple deaths and property destruction.

Headline: Tennessee floods show a pressing climate danger across America: ‘Walls of water’

Story: The Washington Post recounts flooding that killed 21 people and damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes on Aug. 21. Seventeen inches of rain fell in a 24-hour period, breaking the previous record by more than 3 inches.

Excerpt: Tennessee’s flash floods underscore the peril climate change poses even in inland areas, where people once thought themselves immune. A warmer atmosphere that holds more water, combined with rapid development and crumbling infrastructure, is turning once-rare disasters into common occurrences. Yet Americans, who often associate global warming with melting glaciers and intense heat, are not prepared for the coming deluge.

• • •

Headline: California wildfire smoke closes Reno schools, Tahoe parks

Story: The Associated Press reports about widespread disruptions caused by heavy smoke drifting into Northern Nevada from the Dixie and Caldor fires on Aug. 23. Among them: Washoe County School District classes and flights at the Reno airport are canceled, as are food deliveries by the Food Bank of Northern Nevada. Nevada State Parks also shut down its facilities around Lake Tahoe including at a popular swimming beach.

Excerpt: Government air monitors were recording some of the region’s most hazardous conditions in years. Weather forecasters and health officials said little relief is expected in western Nevada through mid-week.

• • •

Headline: ‘The worst thing I can ever remember’: How drought is crushing ranchers

Story: The New York Times travels to North Dakota for a long-form feature on severe drought there, with an 18-month period that ended in June being the driest in 12 counties since record-keeping began in the 19th century. With feed crops decimated, foraging fields scorched and no end in sight to the drought, ranchers are selling off cattle in mass numbers.

Excerpt: Ranchers point to the variable nature of the climate here — where a dry year or two may easily be followed by a wet period — instead of talking about climate change. Yet climate change is occurring in North Dakota, as it is everywhere else.

“We’re at the epicenter of a changing climate,” said Adnan Akyuz, the state’s climatologist and a professor at North Dakota State University. The state has warmed by 2.4 degrees Fahrenheit (about 1.3 degrees Celsius) over the past century, he said. That’s one of the largest increases in the United States.

North Dakota’s climate is expected to become even more variable, with more extreme rainfall and heat. And as elsewhere, droughts are expected to grow in intensity and frequency.

• • •

Headline: The West’s megadrought is so bad, authorities are airlifting water for animals

Story: Vox reports that in several Colorado River watershed states, dry conditions are forcing wildlife officials to transport water by aircraft to catchments that sustain a wide variety of animals — bears, bighorn sheep, antelope, rabbits, bluebirds and more. Arizona hauled a record 2.4 million gallons of water last year and is on pace to bring in 3 million gallons in 2021. Earlier this year, it was reported that officials in Nevada were planning to airlift 55,000 gallons to 12 “guzzlers” — trough-like containers, in Southern Nevada this year.

Excerpt: These measures are quickly becoming the new normal, and they aren’t cheap. Flying a helicopter that air-drops hundreds of gallons of water, for example, can cost as much as $1,800 an hour, according to a biologist with the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Scientists involved in wildlife conservation are concerned that as climate change makes droughts more frequent and severe, they’ll have to work harder to conserve plants and animals.

And as more areas are forced to ration the scarce resource of water, they have to answer a difficult question: What do humans owe animals that are perishing from a problem of our own making?

• • •

Headline: Siberian wildfires double greenhouse gas emission record: This is how they look from space.

Story: reports that wildfires in Siberia have produced 800 megatons of carbon dioxide, doubling the record set justa year ago. The story focuses on satellite images showing a plume of smoke stretching more than 4,000 miles and reaching as far as Alaska. Experts predict that soot from the blazes will settle within the Arctic Circle, which will speed the melting of ice sheets as the darkish soot absorbs sunlight and heats up, creating a vicious circle of global warming.

Excerpt: “Fires in Siberia, like in many other places across the globe, are increasing in size and intensity,” Federico Fierli, an atmospheric composition expert at the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), said in a statement. “Although wildfires are regularly seen in Siberia at this time of year, it is becoming clear that their increasing scale is now the norm, rather than the exception — the trend is deeply concerning.”

• • •

Headline: It rained at the summit of Greenland’s ice sheet for the first time ever recorded

Story: Gizmodo reports that rain fell Aug. 14 at the Greenland Summit Camp, a research station where the daily mean temperature usually never gets above single digits and usually reaches as low as minus-45 degrees. The rain caused melting over 337,000 square miles of the ice sheet, or roughly half of the expanse of ice. This will also create a cycle of accelerated melt once the rain eventually freezes, as scientists say that ice formed by rain is darker than ice created by the compacting of snow, and therefore melts faster.

Excerpt: This summer is a warning sign of the horrors the climate crisis has in store. The Arctic is warming faster than anywhere else on Earth. Studies show that rain is becoming far more common, and that trend will continue as the climate crisis becomes more severe. A 2020 report found that some Arctic regions will begin seeing rain instead of snow in any month of the year, even during the traditionally frigid winter. The Greenland ice sheet meltdown is only one impact. These shifts have also taken a massive toll on the region’s Indigenous populations and ecosystems, and they’re dangerous for those of us living far from the Arctic, too. Last week’s major Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report showed that melt from Greenland and Antarctica’s ice sheets is causing seas to rise faster than at any point in the last 3,000 years.

• • •

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In this Monday, July 26, 2021, photograph, a well head is shown on the Terry Bison Ranch as Cole Gustafson, a water resource administrator for the Greeley, Colo., Water Department, works near his pickup truck. Population growth continues unabated in the South and West, even as temperatures rise and droughts become more common. That in turn has set off a scramble of growing intensity in places like Greeley to find water for the current population, let alone those expected to arrive in coming years.

Headline: Booming Colo. town asks, ‘Where will water come from?’

Story: The Associated Press reports that dwindling water supplies threaten to curb growth in Greeley, Colo., where the population of the city and surrounding Weld County grew 30% from 2010 to 2020. The story notes that the Denver suburb of Thornton, Colo., is attempting to build a 72-mile pipeline to tap a river near Fort Collins, and that Oakley, Utah, a town 45 miles east of Salt Lake City, has imposed a moratorium on construction of new homes due to the town’s overburdened water supply.

Excerpt: In Greeley, the cost of new taps, or connections, to the city’s water supply is rising exponentially. “It’s like bitcoin,″ one official jokes — the city believes it has ensured its water supply for decades to come. The City Council unanimously approved a deal this spring to acquire an aquifer 40 miles to the northwest, providing 1.2 million acre-feet of water. That’s enough to meet the city’s needs for generations, while offering storage opportunities for dry years. The water from the Terry Ranch aquifer near the Wyoming border will not become the primary source of drinking water, but will be a backup source in dry years. In exchange for the aquifer — and a $125 million payment to the city for infrastructure — Greeley will issue the site’s former owner, Wingfoot Water Resources, raw water credits that the firm can sell to developers to connect new homes to the city’s water supply.

“In essence, Greeley is trading future revenue for water supplies today,″ Adam Jokerst, deputy director of the city’s Water and Sewer Department, said in an interview.

• • •

Headline: Reno sets record for most 100-degree days in a year

Story: The AP reports that when the temperature hit 102 on Aug. 17, the city set a record of 21 days this year with temperatures of 100 or higher.

Excerpt: U.S. weather officials announced Friday that July was the hottest month on Earth in 142 years of recordkeeping. At South Lake Tahoe, the average temperature was 5.5 degrees (3.1 C) hotter than normal in July.

• • •

Headline: State imposes water restrictions as drought worsens

Story: The AP reports that officials in Minnesota — the Land of 10,000 Lakes — have imposed water restrictions for much of the state due to drought that has left 60% of the state’s streams and rivers flowing at near-record lows.

Excerpt: Parts of Minnesota have landed in the U.S. Drought Monitor’s most severe level of “exceptional” for the first time since it began ranking droughts by four levels of intensity, the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune reported. The weekly update, posted (Aug. 19), shows that 8% of Minnesota is now in an exceptional drought, up from 7% last week. Almost 97% of the state is in some degree of drought, the only exception being the southeast corner.

• • •

Headline: What does it mean when a community runs out of water? Many in California are finding out

Story: Based on a State Water Resources Control Board announcement that 81 public water systems in California were expected to have “critical water supply issues” by the end of this month, the San Francisco Chronicle publishes an explainer about what happens when a community’s water supply runs out. The upshot is that in general, there are short-term actions such as trucking in water and instituting strict water regulations, as well as longer-term strategies to conserve water and obtain alternate supplies. In the past, state and federal governments have stepped in to keep communities from going dry.

Excerpt: Visitors to the tourist haven of Mendocino, for example, have found hotels with their lobby restrooms closed, formerly green lawns turning to straw and signs reading “Severe drought. Please conserve water.” “This is a real emergency,” Ryan Rhoades, superintendent of the Mendocino City Community Services District, told the Associated Press.

• • •

Headline: Future holds more ‘whiplash weather’ like Tucson’s recent extremes

Story: In a column for the Arizona Daily Star, Tim Steller recounts how Tucson swung from an extremely dry June to flash flooding on Aug. 17 brought on by 5 inches of rain — a staggering amount in a city that normally gets about 10 inches all year.

Excerpt: “One of the major takeaways from the water-cycle chapter that I worked on is that as greenhouse gases increase, the water cycle intensifies,” said (Jessica) Tierney, a paleoclimatologist in the (University of Arizona) geosciences department. “It means that you get heavier precipitation events, and you get more extreme droughts, and you flip back and forth.”

That feels familiar.

UA climate scientist Chris Castro confirmed, “Our monsoon seems to be falling into that same kind of paradigm.”

• • •

Headline: Small towns grow desperate for water in California

Story: The New York Times spotlights Mendocino and several other communities at risk of losing their water supplies. Among them are Fort Bragg, 10 miles north of Mendocino, which stopped selling water to Mendocino due to its own water shortage, and Santa Rosa, which imposed a mandatory 20% reduction on water use and assigned inspectors to patrol neighborhoods to look for water wasters.

Excerpt: As a measure of both the nation’s creaking infrastructure and the severity of the drought gripping California there is the $5 shower.

That’s how much Ian Roth, the owner of the Seagull Inn, a bed-and-breakfast in this tourist town three hours north of San Francisco, spends on water every time a guest washes for five minutes under the shower nozzle. Water is so scarce in Mendocino, an Instagram-ready collection of pastel Victorian homes on the edge of the Pacific, that restaurants have closed their restrooms to guests, pointing them instead to portable toilets on the sidewalk. And the fire department has asked sheriff’s deputies to keep an eye on the hydrants in response to a report of water theft.

• • •

Headline: Severe drought could threaten power supply in West for years to come

Story: The Wall Street Journal reports on one of the ramifications of the dwindling water supply at Lake Mead — it reduces the output of the Hoover Dam hydroelectric facility. At the current elevation, 1,068 feet, the facility can power about 350,000 homes, down from the 450,000 it could power when the water level was at 1,200 feet in 2000. If the lake falls to 950 feet or below, it will sink below the turbines and the facility will be shut down. This also fuels global warming, by increasing demand for other power sources, including coal-burning electric plants.

Excerpt: Every foot of water lost equates to about six megawatts less power generated, according to Patti Aaron, public affairs officer at the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates and maintains the power plant. Six megawatts roughly translates to the power consumed by 800 homes.

• • •

Headline: First water cuts in US West supply to hammer Arizona farmers

Story: Focusing on the shortage declaration for Lake Mead, the AP interviews several Arizona farmers who say they’re planning to drastically scale back their operations due to the state’s upcoming reduction in water allotment from the Colorado River. Arizona will lose 512,000 acre-feet of water, or about a fifth of its allotment.

Excerpt: A harvester rumbles through the fields in the early morning light, mowing down rows of corn and chopping up ears, husks and stalks into mulch for feed at a local dairy.

The cows won’t get their salad next year, at least not from this farm. There won’t be enough water to plant the corn crop. Climate change, drought and high demand are expected to force the first-ever mandatory cuts to a water supply that 40 million people across the American West depend on — the Colorado River. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s projection next week will spare cities and tribes but hit Arizona farmers hard.

• • •

Headline: ‘We’re seeing truly frightening fire behavior’ say firefighters battling the Dixie Fire

Story: CNN reports on the phenomenon of fires growing so intense that they create their own weather, which resembles thunderstorms that can spawn lightning and create tornadoes of fire — or firenadoes. The Dixie Fire in California caused such a storm, including when it burned 44,000 acres — the equivalent of the footprint of Washington, D.C. — in 12 hours beginning Aug. 4.

Excerpt: Pyrocumulus, dry lightning, firenadoes. It sounds like something out of an apocalyptic movie, but it’s a dangerous reality that firefighters are facing.

“We’re seeing truly frightening fire behavior, I don’t know how to overstate that. We have a lot of veteran firefighters who have served for 20, 30 years and have never seen behavior like this, especially day after day, and the conditions we’re in. So we really are in uncharted territory around some of these extreme, large fires and the behavior we’re seeing,” said Plumas National Forest Supervisor Chris Carlton.

• • •

Headline: California town sinking into ground due to corporations pumping groundwater

Story: The Paris-based international news organization Agence France-Presse introduces readers to Corcoran, Calif., an agricultural community that has sunk into the earth due to overpumping of underground aquifers in its region. Most of this pumping is being done by large ag corporations.

Excerpt: Strangely, signs of this subsidence are nearly invisible to the human eye. There are no cracks in the walls of the typical American shops in the town’s center, nor crevices opening up in the streets or fields: to measure subsidence, Californian authorities had to turn to NASA, which used satellites to analyze the geological change.

And yet, over the past 100 years, Corcoran has sunk “the equivalent of a two-story house,” Jeanine Jones, a manager with the California Department of Water Resources, told AFP.

The phenomenon “can be a threat to infrastructure, groundwater wells, levees, aqueducts,” she said.

• • •

Headline: When even the conservative IEA sounds an alarm on climate, the world must listen

Story: In a news analysis, the nonprofit news organization Truthout notes a dire climate report from the International Energy Agency saying current governmental emission reduction pledges would fall “well short” of bringing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

Excerpt: “Climate is a train wreck happening in slow motion,” says Ted Parson, co-director of the Dan and Rae Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the University of California, Los Angeles, who described the IEA’s warnings as something of a canary in the coal mine.

“The IEA is a highly respected, very mainstream and rather conservative analytic organization,” Parson says, explaining that for many years, this rather gun-shy organization hedged short of pushing for a rapid and aggressive transformation away from fossil fuel-driven energy production. “So then comes this report which is astonishing.”

• • •

Headline: Natural weather patterns triggered March flooding. How much of a role did climate change play?

Story: After a storm and flash flood in Omaha reduced visibility to zero and prompted at least six rapid-water rescues, The Omaha World-Herald examined how climate change affected the storm.

Excerpt: Climate scientists often use a baseball analogy to explain the connection between climate change and extreme weather. Martha Shulski, Nebraska’s state climatologist, describes the analogy this way:

Say you’ve got a home run hitter and you put him on steroids. He still hits home runs, but now he’s hitting the balls farther and getting home runs more frequently.

That’s how climate change influences weather: It can increase the intensity and frequency of extreme events.

• • •

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An aircraft drops water over a a wildfire in Vilia area some 60 kilometers (37 miles) northwest of Athens, Greece, Monday, Aug. 23, 2021. Greece's fire department scrambled firefighting aircraft and ground forces as at least two new blazes broke out in areas already scarred by wildfires this summer.

Headline: Apocalyptic’ scenes hit Greece as Athens besieged by fire

Story: In a major on-the-ground reporting project, Guardian recapped the wildfires that swept through Greece this month.

Excerpt: Little had prepared any of us on the Athens-bound flight for the sight of the great fire-induced clouds that swept either side of the plane as it made its descent on Friday.

News of the extreme heat engulfing Greece had spread beyond its borders all week, packaged in increasingly desperate language. Temperatures were breaking records few had ever imagined. If Monday was bad, then Tuesday was worse. In some parts of the country, the mercury had hit 47C (117F), with thermal cameras on drones recording the ground temperature in downtown Athens at 55C (131 degrees Fahrenheit).

By Wednesday, we were hearing that entire tracts of suburban forest on the Greek capital’s northern fringes had gone up in flames. Infernos seemingly redolent of Dante’s hell had incinerated everything in their path; friends had lost homes; thousands had been evacuated with residents and tourists fleeing blighted zones by any means possible. Terraces, an Athenian’s respite against the blazing heat, had been transformed into ash-laden no-go zones.

“It’s been crazy over here. Between the extreme heat and the wildfires, it feels apocalyptic,” Eleni Myrivili, a friend recently appointed to the role of Athens’ first chief heat officer, wrote in an email on Thursday as the army was deployed to assist firefighters. “Ash is raining down on us here in Athens.”

• • •

Headline: Farmworkers are dying in extreme heat. Few standards exist to protect them

Story: “PBS NewsHour” reports on what appears to be a rising number of farmworker deaths amid ever-increasing temperatures. The story points to the lack of permanent and enforceable federal heat standards for workers, and recounts the deaths of several farm workers due to heat and dehydration. One study says the number of unsafe working days for ag workers due to extreme heat will increase from 20 to 54 by 2050.

Excerpt: Organizers say the nature of farmworkers — migrant and mobile and sometimes crossing state lines to work — poses direct challenges when there aren’t federal protections in place to educate the workforce and enforce rules on employers. Studies show physical demands and vulnerabilities such as poverty, migrant status, language barriers and barriers to health care elevate the risks for farmworkers working under extreme temperatures.

“These are not financial policies, these are health and safety protections,” Strater, with the UFW, said. “These are actual men and women and children going out into the fields to work and die to feed the rest of this country, and they are being treated as though they are this human buffer to ensure that there continues to be a well-stocked fridge in your air-conditioned kitchen.”

• • •

Headline: Starving cows. Fallow farms. The Arizona drought is among the worst in the country

Story: The Los Angeles Times interviews ag producers and explains how the combination of years of drought and the upcoming reductions in Arizona’s water allotment is punishing farmers.

Excerpt: Along Interstate 10, typically green farms have turned brown, skinny cattle are left with little grass to graze and saguaros lie dead. “For sale” signs advertise desperate owners looking to sell their land at discount for solar power panels and housing developments.

• • •

Headline: ‘Unimaginably catastrophic’: Researchers fear gulf stream system could collapse

Story: The nonprofit news organization Common Dreams spotlights a scientific study published in the journal Nature Climate Change raising alarm about the gulf stream current pattern in the Atlantic Ocean, which carries warm water from the tropics north to the Northern Atlantic. Researchers say that should the pattern be disrupted or collapse, it would alter global weather patterns and cause significant ocean-level rise along the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S.

Excerpt: “The signs of destabilization being visible already is something that I wouldn’t have expected and that I find scary,” (the study’s author Kiklas) Boers told (The Guardian). “It’s something you just can’t (allow to) happen.”

• • •

Headline: California hits drought milestone as Oroville hydropower stops for first time

Story: In a preview of what could be in store for the Hoover Dam, Politico and other news organizations carried the breaking news that the Hyatt Powerplant at Lake Oroville in Northern California was shut down due to the falling lake level.

Excerpt: California has to lean on other power options as it suffers the impacts of climate change. While the state can import additional supply, that has become less reliable as major wildfires threaten Western transmission lines, as was the case last month in Oregon during a heat wave in California.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has eased rules on fossil fuel use to allow for backup power in emergency conditions. The state is desperately trying to avoid the kind of blackouts experienced during a heat wave last summer.

• • •

Headline: Record wildfire burns amid drought on Hawaii’s Big Island

Story: The AP files a breaking-news story on fires that would burn more than 40,000 square acres and lead to mudslides after being contained.

Excerpt: “It’s the biggest (fire) we’ve ever had on this island,” Big Island Mayor Mitch Roth said of the more than 62-square-mile blaze. “With the drought conditions that we’ve had, it is of concern. You see something like this where you’re putting thousands of homes in danger, it’s very concerning.”

• • •

Headline: San Antonio built a pipeline to rural Central Texas to increase its water supply. Now local landowners say their wells are running dry.

Story: The Texas Tribune reports how a 150-mile pipeline serving San Antonio, combined with drought, was causing wells to dry up in areas where the pipeline draws water.

Excerpt: Since April 2020, when the project came online, groundwater levels in the area near Vista Ridge wells have plummeted, according to well data from the Post Oak Savannah Groundwater Conservation District. Texas is the third-largest groundwater pumper in the nation, according to U.S. Geological Survey data.

The Vista Ridge project is permitted to pump nearly 56,000 acre-feet of water per year from the Carrizo and Simsboro formations. As the groundwater level retreats in their wells, residents have been forced to extend their pumps farther underground and upgrade to stronger equipment that can bring the water up from new depths. The work can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars, and there’s no guarantee they won’t have to drill deeper in the future.

• • •

Headline: June heat wave was the ‘most extreme’ on record for North America

Story: The technology news site The Verge reports on an analysis by the nonprofit research group Berkeley Earth showing that this June was the warmest on record for the entire Northern Hemisphere.

Excerpt: The consequences of that heat are staggering. Scorching temperatures fed wildfires, which burned down 90 percent of Lytton (Canada). There were at least 570 heat-related deaths in Canada and at least 194 in the US. Thousands more people wound up in emergency departments.

The late June heatwave was a “1,000-year event…hopefully,” according to a preliminary analysis by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The severity of the heat would have been “virtually impossible” without human-caused climate change, both NOAA and a separate analysis from an international team of researchers found.

• • •

Headline: Marijuana farmers blamed for water theft as drought grips American west

Story: The Guardian reports on a spike in water theft in California, with thieves tapping into fire hydrants, rivers and lines serving homes and farms. The culprits for much of this theft are illegal cannabis growers.

Excerpt: John Nores (a former head of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife marijuana enforcement team) said the issue had had an impact on lawful farmers, Native American tribes and other small communities in California.

It has also affected drinking water sources. Last spring, 300 homes had their water supply threatened when water valves were improperly shut off, according to the Desert Sun newspaper that covers the Palm Springs and Coachella Valley area south-east of Los Angeles.

• • •

Headline: California drought: Dozens of communities are at risk of running out of water

Story: MSN reports how shortages are threatening the water supplies of 130,000 Californians.

Excerpt: In Fort Bragg on the Mendocino Coast, city leaders are rushing to install an emergency desalination system. In Healdsburg, lawn watering is banned with fines of up to $1,000. In Hornbrook, a small town in Siskiyou County, faucets have gone completely dry, and the chairman of the water district is driving 15 miles each way to take showers and wash clothes.

• • •

Headline: Climate change is causing tuna to migrate, which could spell catastrophe for the small islands that depend on them

Story: The Conversation, a nonprofit news organization, uses climate science, ecological models and economic data from the region in a research project showing that the warming of Pacific waters will cause a shift in the migration patterns of tuna and cause a loss of $140 million in the economies of islands where tuna fishing currently occurs.

Excerpt: These projected losses compound the existing climate vulnerability of many Pacific Island people, who will endure some of the earliest and harshest climate realities, while being responsible for only a tiny fraction of global emissions.

• • •

Headline: The amount of Greenland ice that melted on Tuesday could cover Florida in 2 inches of water

Story: The headline of this CNN story pretty much says it all.

Excerpt: It’s the third instance of extreme melting in the past decade, during which time the melting has stretched farther inland than the entire satellite era, which began in the 1970s.

Greenland lost more than 8.5 billion tons of surface mass on Tuesday, and 18.4 billion tons since Sunday, according to the Denmark Meteorological Institute. While this week’s total ice loss is not as extreme as a similar event in 2019 — a record melt year — the area of the ice sheet that’s melting is larger.

Conclusion: Nevada has taken action to curb climate change and protect our resources, including setting statewide standards for renewable-energy generation and adopting conservation measures that will allow us to weather upcoming reductions in our water allotment due to the water-shortage declaration for Lake Mead.

But as suggested by the quickening drumbeat of news on the dire effects of climate change, we haven’t reached a place where we can sit back and admire our work.

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