After years of too little rain, California has a decidedly different problem on its hands: Way, way too much of it. But the scare at the Oroville dam earlier this month, and the massive floods in Los Angeles last week, pale in comparison to what the latest volley of moisture threatens to serve up.
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On Thursday, US President Trump signed legislation blocking the Stream Protection Rule, a key Obama regulation that limited mining companies from dumping excess spoil into waterways. Waste from mining operations can contain sulphur-bearing minerals which, mixed with water, create what the EPA calls "acid mine drainage". It's a fair trade-off, in Trump's mind, for stimulating coal industry job growth. Trump is set to kill even more regulations. The problem: Deregulation won't bring back coal jobs.
We all know the Earth is warming because humans are emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. We've also heard that the Arctic is doing horribly, hitting record sea ice lows for several of the past few months, thanks to recent hot weather that's connected to a longer-term warming trend. The polar bear populations are projected to decline 30 per cent by 2050. There might not be any late-summer sea ice by the 2030s.
For the second time in recent months and the third time over the past year, President Obama has penned a policy commentary in a leading scientific journal. This time, he isn't defending his signature health care law, but rather, making the case that a clean energy future is inevitable — no matter what Trump does.
On the climate and energy front, 2016 was a year of contradictions. Again and again, our planet smashed global temperature records. The fingerprints of climate change were visible in extreme weather from the North Pole to Louisiana. But the clean energy sector also hit some major milestones. Wind and solar power expanded rapidly as costs fell, demonstrating that a high-tech, low-carbon future is within reach.
Geoengineering is one of those things that sounds like maybe a good idea on paper but could also go horribly, apocalyptically wrong. But if the prospect of plunging Earth's weather systems into chaos isn't enough to convince scientists we need to tread very cautiously with the ultimate global warming tech-fix, perhaps this will: Geoengineering could be a disaster for science.