Southern California environment news and trends

Check your bucket: climate changes could widen Lake Mead's bathtub ring

Seen Lake Mead lately? The bathtub ring - what locals call the white walls of the canyon covered with mineral deposits - keeps growing taller. If UCLA researchers are right, a confluence of natural circumstances will continue to make the bathtub ring grow - and that spells trouble for states that depend on Colorado River water.

UCLA's Glen MacDonald and a former graduate student of his, Abbie Tingstad, went to the Uinta Mountains region in northeastern Utah to examine tree rings in that region. Studying the rings of Pinyon Pines, they reconstructed about a millenium of snowpack and river flow information for the region - whose climate is representative of the upper Colorado River.

They compared their data to three already-available climate signifiers - variations in sea surface temperature. One was records for La Nina - a climate phenomenon where sea surface temperatures at the equator in the Pacific have cooled over time as much as 18 degrees or more (before cycling back upward). The second was records for the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a monthly indicator of variable sea surface temperature in the North Pacific. The third was records for the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation - another sea surface temperature measurement that's variable, this one over a 20-40 year period.


Brown argues environment could create jobs in second debate of governor's race

Not too much talk about the environment in today's debate between Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman in California's governor's race. What talking there was, Brown did it. In answer to a question about job creation in California that pointed out higher unemployment for Latinos, Brown responded that 1.9 million new jobs developed in California while he was governor. He created the California Conservation Corps, which has since had 100-thousand people pass through its program.

"We can power our factories, we can retrofit our buildings, we can build transmission lines, solar collectors, geothermal, wind machines, California was the leader," Brown said. "In renewable energy. now we're behind iowa and texas and china. I believe we can be the leader again."

Brown said some of these projects would be funded by electric utilities. And he said he had a concrete plan: 20-thousand megawatts of energy created in California by 2020, 500-thousand resulting jobs.

"I'm not talking about just a few jobs in the desert. I'm talking about retrofitting all the buildings of California. the commercial, the residential," he said. "Putting young people to work. Whoever's out of work - this is a major public works project."

Brown also said high speed rail would create jobs - something Whitman doesn't support.


Schwarzenegger swings against Prop 23 to defend legacy

In his weekly address, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger defended AB32 and California's climate policy on environmental and economic grounds. This is the week The Gub came out fighting. He denounced Proposition 23, and he told folks at the Commonwealth Club in Santa Clara:

Does anyone really believe that these companies, out of their black-oil hearts, are really spending millions and millions of dollars to protect jobs? It's not about jobs at all. It's about their ability to pollute and thus protect their profits.

Video of his weekly address below:


UPDATE: Boxer, Baucus & EPW

Some interesting updates to a blog entry I made a few days ago about Boxer, Baucus and the comments about her EPW leadership.

During the debate, Carly Fiorina's people tweeted a link to comments made during a hearing in July. To me outside Washington, it looked like Baucus could have been dinging less conservative Dems generally rather than Boxer specifically. Worth noting that Republicans have spun that as utter repudiation of Boxer's chairmanship cloaked in Senatorial courtesy, even with Baucus releasing comments like this (after Wednesday's debate):

"Senator Boxer is a strong and effective Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee and delivers for California time and again. I strongly support Senator Boxer and completely reject any claims to the contrary."

I don't know if that's true. I don't know if it's not. It does seem to me what matters most in terms of the environment is what Boxer accomplished in that EPW committee. Still curious about that.


A riddle: Can a fish turn off water pumps in California's Delta?

Brandon Middleton, a lawyer for the Pacific Legal Foundation, checked out my blog on Fiorina and water in the Central Valley, and like Fiorina did to me, offers corrections I may not need for an analysis of water policy in California he agrees "is not easy to understand."  But if you're so inclined, check out the concerns he raises about the Endangered Species Act generally - much of his post is pre-occupied with the arguments against ESA offered by groups like PLF in ongoing efforts to limit the ESA, undermine it, or eliminate it entirely - like Richard Pombo did for his whole career.

The Pacific Legal Foundation is in the process of challenging the regulation of Delta smelt on Constitutional grounds: making the argument that because the smelt's not sold in interstate commerce, Congress can't regulate it. [Updated 5:47 pm to correct missing words!]