After the deluded attitude of the last American administration, it is a relief to see that Steven Chu, the new energy secretary, has grasped the magnitude of the climate challenge. In his first interview, Chu discussed the impact a business-as-usual approach to greenhouse gas mitigation could have on California by 2100:
In a worst case, Chu said, up to 90% of the Sierra snowpack could disappear, all but eliminating a natural storage system for water vital to agriculture.
“I don’t think the American public has gripped in its gut what could happen,” he said. “We’re looking at a scenario where there’s no more agriculture in California.” And, he added, “I don’t actually see how they can keep their cities going” either.
Talking candidly about the ramifications of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations to around 1000 parts per million, and increasing global temperatures by well over 5ºC, is an important part of making the case for action. That is especially true when a few people still foolishly believe that climate change mitigation is about protecting beavers, rather than averting major damage to human welfare worldwide.