A great story from Rebecca Solnit: the huge dams that were erected in the 1950s are failing. Not in a catastrophic sense, but in the sense that the water is going away, leaving them useless, due to a combination of aggressive consumption by humans (Las Vegas and Phoenix are going to face huge problems) and climate change — less rainfall, more evaporation. It’s not entirely a bad thing.
When the Sierra Club pronounced Glen Canyon dead in 1963, the organization’s leaders expected it to stay dead under Lake Powell. But this old world is re-emerging, and its fate is being debated again. The future we foresee is often not the one we get, and Lake Powell is shriveling, thanks to more water consumption and less water supply than anyone anticipated. Beneath it lies not just canyons but spires, crests, labyrinths of sandstone, Anasazi ruins, petroglyphs, and burial sites, an intricate complexity hidden by water, depth lost in surface. The uninvited guest, the unanticipated disaster, reducing rainfall and snowmelt and increasing drought and evaporation in the Southwest, is climate change.
So at the same time that Florida and all those coastal cities face inundation, the desert boom is going to die the slow death of dehydration. Don’t imagine that you’re living someplace where nothing will change, though; it’s going to hit us all.
The idea is that climate change doesn’t merely increase the overall likelihood of heat waves, say, or the volume of rainfall — it also changes the flow of weather itself. By altering massive planet-scale air patterns like the jet stream, which flows in waves from west to east in the Northern Hemisphere, a warming planet causes our weather to become more stuck in place. This means that a given weather pattern, whatever it may be, may persist for longer, thus driving extreme droughts, heat waves, downpours and more.
I wonder what the economic cost of shutting down the golf courses of Scottsdale and the fountains at the Bellagio might be? And then of course there are the unpredictable disruptive effects as millions of people living in a place temporarily made habitable by futile exercises in short-term hydroengineering find themselves having to migrate elsewhere.
Don’t come to Minnesota! We’re probably going to experience an arctic vortex now and then and plunge into the deep freeze for a month at a time, alternating with winters that barely happened (like this recent one), and overall we’re going to turn into Kansas North.