Day: June 6, 2006

Global warming gets local and cloudy in Seattle

seattle.jpgI’ve noticed that a lot of global warming stories, and books use abstraction and remote examples to illustrate their point. Elizabeth Kolbert’s excellent and readable Field Notes from a Catastrophe calls up the Arctic, the Antarctic, Polar Bears and rising sea levels. The publicity for Al Gore’s (Gore/Obama 2008!) Inconvenient Truth which I have not seen, talks about the Snows of Kilimanjaro extensively.

This kind of imagery is useful, but in the end, Leigh Person in Gary, IN (my favorite name and average city, resp.) will not be moved by shrinking Arctic ice. How will global climate change affect Leigh’s commute? Will Leigh’s vacation home on the beach be below water in 30 years? Will Leigh’s house be invaded by cockroaches? What will happen to Leigh’s 401K? What about Leigh’s kids?

It is difficult enough, given the false balance on climate change reporting, to make long term predictions that will not be “disputed” by “sceptics”, so to make local predictions that are more uncertain is difficult, which is why reporting like the example below must be lauded.

Climate change is a difficult problem, because the countries responsible for the bulk of past, present and future emissions are not the ones that will face the most serious consequences. I want to go into this in greater depth as I read and learn more, but any change in the availability of fresh water in, say, India will result in utter chaos, decelerated growth and death. But the countries most significantly affected (the tropics) are helpless to deal with climate change….

Hopefully, local focused stories will spur people to action.

The Seattle Times: Local News: An even grayer Seattle from global warming?

For those harboring the guilty hope that global warming will transform Seattle into a sun lovers’ paradise on par with the Côte d’Azur, meteorologist Cliff Mass has some bad news: It might actually get cloudier.

Mass and his colleagues at the University of Washington recently completed the most detailed computer simulation ever conducted of the region’s future weather. Among the surprises was a big boost in cloud cover in March, April and May.

“The spring is going to be gunkier — if you believe this — under global warming,” he said.

The model also predicts that the number of summer days when temperatures soar into the 90s will more than triple before the end of the century, if greenhouse-gas emissions from cars and industry continue unabated.

And the hopes of some water managers appear to be dashed by the finding that catastrophic losses of winter snowpack will not be offset by more summer thunderstorms.

Bill to test private drinking water wells under fire

Ensuring that private wells in  North Carolina are  held to the same standards as municipal water sources seems to be a no-brainer. Why would any one NOT want to know if their primary water source has arsenic, or old lace in it! Apparently, the need to buy a house in one day rather than wait the week or two that most environmental labs in the state would take to run the various drinking water tests takes precedence, seems like a little spin to me.

The real issue here is the competing needs of the buyer and the seller, the buyer needs to know and the seller does not necessarily want the buyer to know. If this is a private transaction, no big deal, people can ask, but when you’re up against the cookie cutter developers (politically connected, of course) and the home builders association, the power asymmetry pretty much ensures that in the absence of regulation, bad things will happen. | Testing of new wells under fire

The state’s real estate and home building industries are opposed to mandatory tests of new drinking water wells, especially if a test backlog could delay the sale of a house.

Companion bills, introduced late last month in the state House and
Senate at the request of Gov. Mike Easley, would require North Carolina counties to enforce state well construction standards. Water-quality tests will be required of new wells that provide water to houses or small businesses that serve transient populations, such as service stations.

The News & Observer reported in March that more than 2 million North Carolinians drink water from private wells and that they are at risk from contaminants that they cannot see, smell, or taste. Some are man-made, from a nearby farm or business, and some are natural, such as arsenic or radiological contaminants.

There are no state testing requirements for private wells. At least three attempts over the past 15 years to require minimal testing have been defeated.

Rick Zechini, who represents the N.C. Association of Realtors, and R. Paul Wilms, who represents the N.C. Home Builders Association, say the bill should be defeated if it isn’t changed.
“Until we get assurance that there is [testing] capacity, that the tests won’t take weeks and months, and that the cost is not prohibitive, we’re not in a position to support the legislation,” Zechini said.