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Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Climatologist: World is no longer 'normal'
When a climatologist tells you the only thing that's going to reverse the effects of global warming is a "good old-fashioned pandemic that wipes out millions" your ears perk up. Mine sure did when climatologist Bill Patzert of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory told me that, even if he was saying it mostly in jest.

We came to California to see what is making this state so darn hot and to take a look at what the summer may bring. It's not good.

Patzert got a rare glimpse into the future by studying the past. He found that in the last 100 years the average daily temperature in this state jumped 5 degrees; average nightly temperature jumped 7 degrees; and the annual number of extreme heat days, those over 90 degrees farenheit, multiplied by 12. Even heat waves are up, he said. They are three-to-five times more likely with each passing summer.

"Now I realize normal is just a cycle on a washing machine. We're no longer living in a normal world. We're living in a warmer world," he said.

So what does all that mean for Californians? It could mean a steamy, smoggy, hot, fiery summer is around the corner, with myriad consequences.

The Los Angeles County Fire Chief for the Forestry Division John Todd told me that with the ground so hot, brush fires no longer occur just a few months a year, but all year long.

A heightened demand for electricity could tax power companies and their ability to deliver a consistent flow of energy. Last year, when temperatures soared well over 100 degrees, more than one million Californians lost power for more than a week. But Southern California Edison's Pedro Pizarro tells us the company is prepared with extra power generating capacity on standby.

We were the first TV crew invited to take video inside the company's "war room." It is packed with monitors that are tracked 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They show how much electricity is actually being used by the company's 13 million customers as compared to what had been predicted for the day. The goal is to avoid blackouts.

The problem is that megawatts don't go as far as they once did. Before it got so hot in California, one megawatt could power 750 homes. Now it only powers 650 homes. And people are building bigger and bigger homes, megahomes if you will, in inland areas like San Bernardino Valley, which are hotter. Many here say urban sprawl should get some of the blame for the extreme heat.

"All this population urban/suburban development has definitely done an extreme makeover on the surface of Southern California," Patzert told me.

It's getting so bad that California Attorney General Jerry Brown has sued San Bernardino County, one of the fastest growing inland areas in the United States, for failing to account for greenhouse gases when updating its 25-year blueprint for growth.

Infectious disease experts, such as William K. Reisen at University California Davis and Microbiologist Stephen Morse at Columbia University, suggest extreme heat this summer may even bring tropical diseases to southern California. The flu, which circulates year round in the tropics, could do the same here. And the mosquitoes -- look out! They bite more often at night, so the warmer nights are sure to keep them busy.

This isn't how I pictured Southern California.

-- By Randi Kaye, CNN Correspondent
Posted By CNN: 4:48 PM ET
  25 Comments
What's happening in California is only the beginning of this impending nation wide disaster.

After 2 terms of G.W. Bush as President neglecting all environmental safeguards and relaxing environmental standards to allow for obscene corporate profits, it may be too late to make any appreciable changes to correct all the accumulative damage.

This nation needs a President like Al Gore. No other Democrat and certainly no Republican candidate can even come close to Al Gore in understanding the environmental disaster looming over all of us.

Please run for President Mr. Gore. This nation needs you.
Posted By Joseph Kowalski, North Huntingdon, PA : 5:18 PM ET
Randi,

Yikes! Come to Northern California then. We have more trees and we are greener. Instead of building in the desert, we are gobbling up valuable farm land and building in flood plains. Our temps hit 100+ but it is a "dry" heat. But Lordy, your report sure doesn't bode well for my fair state. And if things tank in So Cal, our precious Delta and water supply could be further jeopardized.
Posted By Charlotte D, Stockton : 5:28 PM ET
Hi Randi,
I've lived in California all my life. I can't say I've noticed that much of a change, perhaps more humidity than in the past. I've been told it's because so many more people are putting in swimming pools??? Don't know if that's true.
I do know one thing for sure, I'm not going to live in a state of constant fear...parden the pun. I'll use more sunscreen for my Casper the Ghost white skin and enjoy the beauty of my California..the good, bad, and mosquitoes all rolled into one great state. Take Care
Posted By Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif. : 5:30 PM ET
Randi,

I agree with you piece 100%. Changes can already be found here. Last night while outside, someone commented that they had just been bitten by a mosquito, to which someone else said it was too early for mosquitos. Normally this is true, but I came home with bites on both ankles. Usually it's July and humid as well as hot.

In an earlier post, Joseph K. commented about needing Gore as president, as he was the expert on the global warming. While I understand what his intentions are, we all have to realize there is so much more to be concerned about.

It seems I change my choice for president often. Too bad we can't have more than one person running the whole show. Cooperation would help, would it not?

Maggie
Posted By Maggie, Grain Valley, MO : 5:46 PM ET
Randi,

The temps have been below normal here in L.A. for the last couple of weeks. I just had my house landscaped and it's been too cold to sit in the backyard.

I'm not saying global warming is not a major problem worldwide, because I believe that it is. However, the picture you have painted here of Southern California may be a just a bit too dire.
Posted By Barbara, Los Angeles, CA : 5:52 PM ET
Geez Randi,
Ice caps are melting, water levels are rising, animals are becoming extinct, and California is steaming. We keep hearing about the dangers of global warming but no one is doing anything about it. Then, there are those who refuse believe it just as there are those who think we never landed on the moon.
It really does make your ears perk up ( and send shivers down my spine) to hear a climatologist say that the only thing that is going to reverse global warming is a "good old~fashioned pandemic that wipes out millions". That's a doomsday message which should make us act and react, but it probably won't.
I am so thankful that 360 keeps reporting about global warming. Gosh, I really like this program! IS ANYONE LISTENING? Well, Al Gore is but he's not running for President, yet.
In the meantime let's see, how many deadly diseases can a mosquito transmit?
Posted By Betty Ann, Nacogdoches,TX : 6:03 PM ET
The so called War on Global Warming is just as abstract and dangerous as the War on Terror. Both "wars" are completely open-ended, and are invoked as justifications for extra-Constitutional behaviors by their most fervent defenders. George Bush has used his war to set himself up as Emperor of the World, where Gore seems to be aiming to become the Sun King.
Posted By Pete, Boulder : 6:08 PM ET
You think it's bad HERE, just be glad you aren't in China or Mexico City. My brother lived in China for over 10 years. He said the air is so bad in some cities (due to excessive coal burning, since coal is abundant and cheap in China) it's like *smokey* all the time, and many, many people wear face masks. He also said the mortality rate and lifespan have noticeable worsened. Pretty sad, we just can't stop or help ourselves, and we are literally KILLING OURSELVES. How poetic is that?! :-) I guess we are not as evolved as we would like to think, eh?!?
Posted By Hank, Seattle, WA : 6:55 PM ET
Yikes! This story almost makes 9 months of winter in Chicago bearable! I think I'd still rather be in California in January. Do they say anything about possible water shortages? Thanks for the story.
Posted By Kathy Chicago,Il : 6:57 PM ET
At almost age 50, I'm just glad I will hopefully die in the next 25 years before I get TOO OLD and don't have to see things get worse than they already are.

My worst fear and nightmare is to be still living--or even worse, be BORN--about 2030-2050, when it's going to be REALLY BAD here on Earth!!
Posted By Sam, Houston, TX : 6:57 PM ET
hmmm.... let me see - in the 70's we were headed for an ice age, now we're headed for the hot age. Normal? A few billion years ago normal was REALLY hot. Millions of years ago palm trees, in what are now some of our coldest regions, were "normal". And just a few hundred years ago they cared for grape vineyards in northern Europe - but not today - it's just too cold.

I'm just a simple high school grad with some college, but I was smart enough to look this up: CO2 comprises .2 to .3 percent of the atmosphere's gases. It's estimated that humans create/cause about 5% of that. So, forget about our 5% of .3 percent - I want to know what we're gonna do about the other 95% of the of the .3 percent we have no control over?

Sorry - I don't buy it! Just let me know when we're headed the other direction again!

Oh by the way, I ran the Los Angeles Marathon (I was born and raised there) this past March. An article related to the Marathon casually mentioned how cool the temps are that time of the year in LA - that in fact over the past 10 years the temp in Los Angeles for that time of the year has dropped by 5-10 degrees......

Oh, and have you seen the rebutal movie to Al "the prophet" Gore? Do yourself a favor and see how it happens that million year old ice samples show readings of nearly 10 times the CO2 THEN than NOW - without any machines and very few humans. I'll close as I opened ...............hmmmmmmmmmm
Posted By mark, santa rosa, ca : 7:13 PM ET
It's worse than you think. Yes global warming is real. It is not a California thing, it's not a national thing it is truly global. The implications for all life is frightening. I googled "6th great extinction" and had numerous hits such as this one:

http://www.actionbioscience.org/newfrontiers/eldredge2.html

If we as a species don't act quickly, the thoughts that a pandemic as the only way of saving life as we know it are terrifyingly possible.

Bill
Posted By Bill Johns/ WA state : 7:35 PM ET
Wow, I hate to critize CNN, but please don't misunderstand "California, the state" with "Southern California, LA to more exact" where much of the pollution problems are. I invite you to come to Northern or Central California, where our climate has remained steady pretty much for 20 years. Mind if I refresh your memory that Central California is where the majority of the nation's produce comes from, so something is right.

Southern California is a problem of smog, pollution an over population. Gov. Schwarzeneggar has worked well with the Democrats to try and reverse some of these effects. I agree with many of of the comments above, think before you speak, and come visit Sacramento, San Jose or San Francsicso before making these judgements.

Up here we have some of the greenest pastures, richest forests, beautiful non-corroding coastline and clean air. Our only problem is that the California Delta steals much of the water that comes from the Sierra Nevada's and diverts it to So. California, leaving No. California with a water shortage.
Posted By W. Brown, San Francisco, CA : 8:07 PM ET
Don't worry Mr. Climate-guy, I predict that there will be more than one good pandemic soon, and you won't have to worry about the climate anymore. I base my prediction on a very old book that is chock full of good advice. As for Al Gore... puh-lease STOP with the Al Gore for Prez garbage! I saw the Al Gore moment of fame and am not impressed with his science. And yes, I AM a scientist! Global warming is really nothing more than a distraction from the real problems we have on our hands. Get a grip folks!
Posted By Tim, Abingdon, Virginia : 8:25 PM ET
I hate to say it, but it's a credible solution.
The height of human poplulation on the planet has been offsetting the balance. With more people, more resources must be consumed and more damage to the ecosystem can be expected. Humans have constantly interfered with natural processes, being short-sighted as we are. The consequences of this interference affect everything on the planet, both living and nonliving, humans and nonhumans. Still being shortsighted, we continue meddling with Earth's clockwork mechanism. Islands have been blown away, strains of virus's become resistant to antibodies, animals become extinct or nearly extinct, soil erosion ensues deforestation, water has been with tainted with toxins from dumping waste and acid rain. For our amusement, we've even manipulated the genes of fish so that they'll glow patterns in the dark.
If we can't learn from the consequences of our actions to curb ourselves, perhaps the world would be better off if the burden that is mankind was lightened.
Natives (they wish to be called "natives" over "Native Americans") lived alongside the course of nature. We can learn from their examples as well as from other living beings around us. Eating to live, not living to eat; such lessons can be learned if we only stop and observe. Sometimes, it is best to let natural selection take us instead of fighting it. Not only does it keep our population under control, but it allows for the human race to develop. Instead, our population is kept in check by homocide; the human race develops by improving technolongy and incorporating the advantageous genes of another into our bodies.
Posted By Mike Finnigan -Edison NJ : 8:45 PM ET
Randi,

Welcome to Kalifornia, indeed, the land of fruits and nuts.
Posted By Rod C. Venger Colorado Springs, Colorado : 8:47 PM ET
Please to all that live in So. Cali.,wear great sunscreen along side strong bug spray. P.S. A flu shot may also be wise.
Posted By Crystal Oldenburg Osseo,MN : 8:51 PM ET
I am glad that politicians are better integrating thier faith with politics. If we can pursue this attitude of faith and reason, I feel out country would be better in the short and long run.
Posted By Lance Mcafee, okla : 8:44 AM ET
Regarding the possible mosquito problem mentioned at the bottom of the blog, here's a little-known fact that will help many people sleep better on summer nights:

It is the female mosquito that does all the biting. Males don't bite. Also, interestingly enough, males produce an audible
buzzing noise when they fly, but the females don't. You can't hear female mosquitos when they fly. So, if you're lying awake at night, unable to sleep, because you hear a mosquito buzzing around the bed, relax! It's only a male and it doesn't bite! However, if you hear nothing .... :)
Posted By John Whitecourt, Alberta : 10:44 AM ET
What really scares me about this is not so much the heat but the fact that once we hit "the point of no return", the only thing that would cool this planet back off is a nuclear winter.
Posted By Steven in Illinois : 12:56 PM ET
Don't let them fool you, folks. Northern Cali gets VERY HOT in the Summers up here. August and September are dreaded due to the 100+ degree temps.

Good riddance to human beings--we will never be able to eradicate evil, selfishness, greed, and the numerous other *negative* human aspects that cause the destruction of planet earth.

Given current events around the world, perhaps global thermonuclear warfare is a distinctly real possibility in the future. This would extinct the pesky species of Homo Sapiens!! Mother Nature would breathe a great big sigh of relief and go about restoring the Earth in due time.
Posted By Mark, Sacramento, CA : 1:33 PM ET
We have SOOOOOOOO BLOWN IT here on Earth, people!

Death to humans!!
Posted By Susan, Peoria, IL : 1:34 PM ET
Certainly the definition of "normal" when in reference to the weather must mean "not quite the same". All data from previous years is given in the form of "averages". The changes we are experiencing seem very dramatic because they touch nearly every aspect of our lives. No disrespect to the residents of California, but it isn't the only place severely impacted. Think of where your food comes from and the economy and environment of the areas that are dependent upon agriculture. Hopefully the law of "averages" will be on our side.
Posted By Pat in rural Nebraska : 4:56 PM ET
Wow. I've been wondering for a long time what the overall view looked like concerning global warming. The Swiss farmers go by their 100 year almanac, and a lot of times, as with history, when you see the big picture it puts things into a different perspective.
When I was new to Switzerland I remember being a little overwhelmed, because if you mentioned pouring a bit of cooking fat down the sink, or not buying biodegradable cleaning agents in refillable containers people could get slightly irate.
I see the sense in recycling, using public transportation, and the rest of it, but some people get a little bit fanatic. It's always good to have some facts to work with when confronted.
So now we know.
Posted By N. Schroeper, Axalp, BE, Switzerland : 5:23 PM ET
So many opinions that I won't add mine. Here's a nice poem by Robert Frost instead.

Fire and Ice
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

-- Robert Frost
Posted By Gypsy, an American in Mexico : 10:46 AM ET
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