Thursday, February 05, 2009

Energy secretary fears end of agriculture in Calif., water shortages as results of climate change

Energy Secretary Steven Chu told the Los Angeles Times yesterday that "We're looking at a scenario where there's no more agriculture in California," and disaster for the state's cities as the Sierra Nevada snowpack succumbs to global warming. He also warned of water shortages in other parts of the West, and even in the Midwest.

"Chu is not a climate scientist," notes reporter Jim Tankersley, but "Recent studies raise similar warnings. One, published in January in the journal Science, raised the specter of worldwide crop shortages as temperatures rise. Another, penned by UC Berkeley researchers last year, estimated California has about $2.5 trillion in real estate assets -- including agriculture -- endangered by warming."

To fight climate change, Chu, a Californian, "sees public education as a key part of the administration's strategy ... along with billions of dollars for alternative energy research and infrastructure, a national standard for electricity from renewable sources and cap-and-trade legislation to limit greenhouse gas emissions. He said the threat of warming is keeping policymakers focused on alternatives to fossil fuel, even though gasoline prices have fallen over the last six months from historic highs. But he said public awareness needs to catch up. He compared the situation to a family buying an old house and being told by an inspector that it must pay a hefty sum to rewire it or risk an electrical fire that could burn everything down." He said, "I'm hoping the Amercian people will wake up." (Read more)

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