Global Warming, in Color

Berkeley Earth

The head of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) study, Richard Muller, a Berkeley physicist previously known for his skeptical views on anthropogenic warming, appeared on Capitol Hill Monday, for the first time since the release of the study’s results.

As we’ve reported, the study found that the Earth is warming. Surface temperatures have increased about one degree Celsius since the mid 1950s, according to the study, which relied on a database of 1.6 billion records. Continue reading

The Cost of Sloth

The changing climate could cost Californians “tens of billions of dollars a year.”

Money Man

Those are just the direct costs, toted up in a new report by economists at U-C Berkeley.
“California Climate: Risk and Response” is billed as the first comprehensive report on the costs that may be inflicted on California from the effects of climate change. The 127-page report was co-authored by Fredrich Kahl and David Roland-Holst of Berkeley’s Center for Energy, Resources and Economic Sustainability (part of the Dept. of Agricultural and Resource Economics).

Higher energy demand, heat waves, scarce water, wildfire and rising sea levels–even the “collapse” of the state’s half-billion-dollar ski industry–are just some of the potential cost drivers. The “good news,” according to the report, is that much of this cost could be avoided by immediate investment in strategies to prepare.

A key question is where the money will come from—especially in tough economic times—to invest in the energy and other infrastructure needed to stave off the worst damage. Skip Laitner of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, says we’re not necessarily talking about finding “new” money for these investments. “In the US economy,” says Laitner, “we’re looking at almost two trillion dollars of investment anyway, regardless of how tight the market is. The point I think is a smart re-deployment of investment to more productive uses.”

That includes rapid development of renewable energy and measures to use water more efficiently. The study was funded by the nonpartisan think tank known as Next 10 and is just the latest in a repeating chorus of studies making the point that a full-on confrontation with climate change will, in the long run, be good for the economy, and may even provide some near-term stimulus.

Just weeks ago, Roland-Holst unveiled a separate study on the potential for job creation from promoting conservation and a shift to renewable energy. Earlier this week, a Cal State Fullerton study put a $28 billion-dollar current price tag on air pollution in the south coast and San Joaquin Valley regions.

Roland-Holst will be one of the guests on KQED’s Forum program tomorrow (Friday). He’ll be joined by representatives from Next 10 and Environment California, in a robust discussion of the cost of climate change.

Small Mammals on the Move in a Warming Yosemite

Over the last century, small mammals in Yosemite National Park have been on the move.  A recent study published in today’s issue of Science finds that as temperatures have warmed (a 3-degree Celcius increase in the park’s night-time low temperature) and Sierra glaciers have continued to melt, small mammals like mice, shrews, and chipmunks have moved to higher elevations or reduced their ranges in response to the climate.As part of the Grinnell Resurvey Project, a team from UC Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology headed up by professor Craig Moritz recently documented these changes in Yosemite by conducting a survey of the animal populations and comparing their data with an extensive data set collected in the same locations by field biologist Joseph Grinnell in the early 20th century.Of the 28 small mammals observed in the study, half had expanded their range upslope by more than 1,600 feet.

Since the higher up you are, the cooler the temperatures tend to be, recent research suggests that the mammals already living at high elevations may eventually face “mountaintop extinctions,” as they run out of room to climb higher if temperatures continue to rise. For example, the alpine chipmunk, which in 1918 was common at 7,800 feet, was recently nowhere to be found below 9,600 feet, according to the study.

Scientists acknowledge that changes in populations and animal communities are natural, but, Moritz says, what is less common is the speed with which these changes occured.