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November 21, 2016

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Does anyone remember the gentle rains that used to roll into the Phoenix area from the north late at night during the monsoon season? They don't come anymore. If you're lucky, it's a violent thunderstorm.

Sadly "progress" means getting rid of the natural cooling process - fewer trees and other natural ways to cool down. And then we wonder why it is harder to live in cities

Thanks

When my family arrived in Phoenix in the spring of 1942, all we had were "swamp" coolers for the next 20 years. The last house we rented was in the 300 block on East Coronado Rd. These were all old homes built in the 20s. I remember the cooler was a huge fan mounted in the east wall of the living room. Us kids would come inside out of the summer heat, and stand in front of the huge blower for a few minutes, until we cooled off. Needless to say, there was no duct work in those old houses, so none of the bedrooms were cooled. Frequently, I would sleep outside, until the bugs and other flying creatures drove me inside.

Those were the days!

The anti-environmentalism that is now a fixed feature of right-wing politics must imagine a future where blacks and Latinos will steal all the cool air. The only option left for our beleaguered victims of political correctness is to move further and further out, thus keeping minorities penned up in the epicenter of the emerging heat island. The solution is to market-price water so we conserve a precious commodity! It's a perfect feed-back loop for more warming.

A valley historian mentioned to me that it was the early 50s - maybe 1953? - when the rules for homeowner mortgages changed, allowing the cost of AC on a new home to be rolled into the mortgage. Starting then, new build homes were far more likely to include an AC unit. Until that time, homeowners would need to pay cash for their AC units.
Admitted hearsay, but an interesting tidbit.

We live in an irrigated neighborhood and our voluntary HOA (which only manages irrigation system maintenance) is sorely underfunded (less than 15% of homes contribute). We've received approval from the county to begin collecting signatures to form a special taxation/water delivery district with the intent to secure the necessary annual funds to maintain the system.

I have a neighbor across the street who bought her house about a year ago. It was renovated and a sprinkler system was installed. I mentioned the water delivery district (rated at $16/yr per household) to her and she glared at me -- why should she pay for the irrigation system? I mentioned it's much cheaper than running her sprinklers. Her response, "I don't want to pay to build up by berms. I'll just convert to all desert landscaping." First, her berms look better than many that are functional. Second, lady, do you have any idea how expensive redoing that large of a yard will be? Third, for $16/year, you can allow your neighborhood to be cooler than neighboring ones that abandoned irrigation years ago and, thus, no longer have large trees, green lawns (and no desert landscaping -- now it's just dirt, especially the low-end rentals), and higher property values.

The things we all take for granted in Phoenix....

It was pray for a breeze according to my mother,
"and it was common to wrap oneself in a wet sheet and hope for a cooling breeze."
Whatever the reasons the west grew, they were all bad.
The Salt was a cool Oasis in 1400.
Right Ruben?

It had been cal. From 1300 to 1400 we had mostly above average rainfall. However, the 1400's were almost all drought years. And with the first Circle K still 550 years away, we got pretty thirsty.

The Richard Rorty piece in the Front Pages is excellent.

It seems to me a perfect storm is brewing on the horizon that very few in Phoenix are interested in confronting.

1. This is the combination of lower water levels on the Colorado, which when it falls to, I think, 1070', means water rationing. This water rationing is so that there's enough pressure to keep the turbines in the dams spinning for power generation.

2. It has been pointed out that groundwater usage near the Colorado and its tributaries is contributing to the dropping Colorado. This is because of "seepage" from the Colorado tributaries to replenish the aquifers being increasingly being tapped to cover the decreased rainfall. This tributary "seepage" may be news to many, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has tracked this for decades.

What does all this mean? In the future, if the drought continues, water will become increasingly scarce--and this scarcity will likely increase just like the upward parabola average temperatures are exhibiting.

If the water drops to a level that the turbines can only run at reduced power, where will Arizona get the needed power from? From what I know, most of Palo Verde's power is allocated to California.

What will happen then?

Bradley, power we got. Just turn on the coal plants and we are going to have plenty of it.

And that was one of the big promises by Trump, rolling back the EPA anti-coal changes.

That means coal is back and power will be cheap again. Sorry for the haze, but we got cheap power.

APS held off long enough to get clear of the Obama administration.

And cheap coal combined with APS control of the Corp Comm killing off advantageous net metering has made solar economically uncompetitive.

Water is not in shortage, cheap water is what is no longer available.

California is a great example- the Imperial Valley started selling out to San Diego decades ago- cash for water far outweighs commodity crops.

The rest of the west had better begin to understand that growing alfalfa and cotton are economic losers.

"If the water drops to a level that the turbines can only run at reduced power, where will Arizona get the needed power from?"...

I'm sure there are others here who know a great deal more about this then I do, but Lake Powell (I think) could be used to raise Lake Mead.

Good column, Jon. I'm glad you intuitively knew that you could count on Soleri to provide the requisite "It's all the Republicans' fault" element so you didn't have to ruin your own piece by including it.

Rail advocate that I am--and, once again, a supporter of restoring "main line" passenger rail service to Phoenix--I suspect that the advent of World War II had as much--or more--to do with Phoenix's population growth as either the rail connections or air conditioning.

Arizona's desert climate was ideal for flight training, which resulted in a number of "Thunderbird" and other "fields" in the area. A graduate of Ohio State's Army Air Corps ROTC, my father (and Barry Goldwater) were two of seven young officers who reactivated Luke Field in anticipation of hostilities in the fall of 1941 (The reason I was born here and destined to be an occasional thorn in your side ). Dad and Barry were eventually transferred to what was then the Yuma Army Air Field. The Yuma area was also ideal for training for North Africa, and Patton's armor division trained there.

So, all of these Army guys saw first hand what a great place Arizona is to live year round, and that dastardly group of developers you write about were only too willing to oblige them with new housing.

As an aside, I find it interesting that, while it is "politically correct" to point out that the elimination of many of the citrus groves is at least partially responsible for the "local warming" in Phoenix (An assertion with which I wholeheartedly agree), re-planting trees--in the Valley and elsewhere--is less often touted as a means of mitigating the warming. A tree is Nature's natural "carbon sequesterer" in addition to an essential source of oxygen. Regardless of what--or who--one thinks is responsible for climate change, needlessly polluting the atmosphere is obviously a dumb idea and should be discouraged. But shouldn't we also be planting trees? Yes, they use water, but native, drought-tolerant varieties are available that also provide shade.

Concern Troll and 100 Octane,

From my understanding of it, the usage of water in the Colorado River basin is 50% higher than the actual flow (in acre-feet) of the river itself. That's 1 and 1/2 times the actual water flow.

Because this discrepancy is likely to widen, I'm guessing that the shortage of water will hit sooner than later--especially as demand (and consumption) of water surges ever higher year by year.

Also, with regard to increased use of "cheap" coal, it will increase the angle of the upward parabola in temperature rise. The economic consequence will make itself felt in a corresponding dearth of water coming into the Colorado River.

100 Octane,

But isn't draining Lake Powell to fill Lake Mead like robbing Peter to pay Paul, or just a temporary fix at the expense of the turbines at Glen Canyon Dam?

But then, getting rid of Glen Canyon Dam has been on the environmentalists' hit list for quite a while.

Where's Cactus Ed when We need him?

Bradley, that is correct. It is a worse case scenario plan. The Hoover Dam powers Southern California and Glen Canyon powers areas with less economic importance. Also, some people would like to see Powell drained anyway, for various reasons.
Any new power plants will be most likely natural gas powered, thanks to fracking.

Leave it to hordes of white Europeans to deface nature's beauty and rapidly destroy
natural resources. They live not with the land but like leaches off the land. May the day come when from the south west, hot desert winds sweep away the bones of these invaders and the prairie grass grows tall through the asphalt and concrete of the past.

Robert Bohannon, I get that the R vs D thingie is crude shorthand but, yes, it's pertinent to this discussion since the climate crisis is an aspect of the built environment. In Arizona this involves a stark inability to limit the footprint of our population centers. Sprawl is being driven by land-use decisions favoring the economic interests of land speculators, and more sprawl means more of an urban heat island. Who favors sprawl? Need I ask?

Now that Trump has conquered, we'll see a big uptick in the Sagebrush Rebellion. There will be intense pressure to sell off federal lands to the highest bidder. The public interest will be subverted for one last growthgasm. As we've seen with Trump himself, there are no ethical guidelines when it comes to rapacity.

Arizona is toast, so to speak. The faint hopes that some of us once had of limited sprawl in places like Prescott Valley, the White Mountains, or the Sonoran uplands north of Phoenix, have been extinguished. Your side won. Take a victory lap.

soleri,

So I guess it's likely the increasingly steep arc of temperature increase will continue unabated.

Greed, one of the seven deadly sins, will indeed prove deadly to more and more humans as global warming really heats up....

I guess the only thing the U.S. will be an example to the rest of the world for is how to keep your head in the sand.

There will be increasingly more of THAT in Arizona. One only need look at the expanding Sahara as it moves south in Niger, Mali, and Chad as the climate gets hotter. This will happen in Arizona, as the shrinking snowpack runoff, combined with hotter temperatures, will make Phoenix an increasingly inhospitable location.

But, then, that is certainly more likely under a Trump presidency because the environment is way down the list of "priorities" for Trump and the Republicans.

Isaac Newton famously said, "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."

Too many greedy humans think it is their sacrosanct right and duty to subjugate anything in their way. Climate change and nature's "reaction" to our overbearing ambition is just becoming apparent. And still too many of us think it is just a myth.

Time will tell: The drumbeats of that heat wave heading toward humanity are getting louder all the time.

Climate change "a hoax".
Sound like the disastrous 1954 Castle Bravo test when Alvin Cusham Graves said about those that questioned the outcome.
Such risks were "concocted in the minds of weak malingerers".

Bradley, one of the reasons for this sharp turn to the right in western democracies is a reaction to the epic refugee crisis we see around the world. Syria is probably the most vivid example, but as you mention, sub-Saharan Africa is increasingly desperate. There's an irony here that the right's xenophobia is a reaction to a worsening climate made even worse by their own denialism.

An instinctive reaction in times of crisis is fear. Fear makes us stupid, however, and it's not an accident that the parts of the American electorate least informed and most credulous also vote Republican. When ignorance and cruelty become primary values we see the triumph of Trump-like politicians. Ours is the worst possible outcome in terms of magnifying the epic crisis confronting us.

As the Campfire crowd has dwindled and the ashes dim I am giving thought to furthering my evolution by spending time at the White Hart.

Cal,

new favorite proverb:

“I don’t see how this town is going to defeat the water,” said Brent Dixon, a resident of Miami Beach who plans to move north and away from the coast in anticipation of worsening king tides, the highest predicted tide of the year. “The water always wins.”
Funny how that turns up in different places. (source)

Re: climate change - over anyway. But one can always make it worse.

The short answer is that, strictly speaking, the future of global climate would have been fracked even had the election gone the other way, unless stronger action to cut CO2 emissions is taken, very soon.
(source). 'Action, real soon', also a recurring theme.

soleri,

The reason I bring up the sub-Saharan condition (with its consequent migration) is that the same weather change is likely to occur in Phoenix.

One only needs to consider a power outage in summer to understand how badly that might affect real estate values in the Valley--and how the "weather" that sold Phoenix could become its worst enemy.

The heat will come: if the power isn't there, even briefly, how many people will be able to handle it.

Water power is intrinsic to power generation. While natural gas and coal could provide power, the plants take time to construct. And those sources of power will only add to global warming.

AWinter,

When Trump becomes President (Jill Stein may have a thing to say about that by recounts in WI, PA, and MI), if he pursues his agenda without regard to climate change, the US will have absolutely NO moral or demonstrated (based on action) authority to cajole the rest of the world on reducing "greenhouse" emissions.

Does anyone really believe the developing countries will just curb greenhouse gases on their own? Just consider that these countries all want the standard of living we enjoy here--and they want it sooner than later.

THAT (Trump becoming President) will likely be the real "tipping point" future(?) generations will record as "when we as a species lost the battle against climate change."

While this column was about air conditioning, and how that and transportation links grew Phoenix, the power generation required make both air conditioners and transport run now represents a likely existential threat to Phoenix, if not to any form of "living well."

We are right now (not a year from now) at the tipping point. The temperatures are on an increasingly accelerating "spike" upward--and virtually the entire scientific world agrees.

The longer we wait to arrest or slow down that "spike," the more likely we WON'T be able to do much of anything.

That's where we as a species stand today, 11/25/2016.

Bradley, I am not a scientist and I'm not qualified to play-act one PERIOD. That said, my gut tells me that tipping point has come and gone. Everything we do from here on out is simply mitigation of even worse catastrophic climate change.

I can imagine a Phoenix coping in its fashion with climate change but since everything in climate and the global economy is interconnected. there will be hell to pay on one front or another, or more probably, both. In this scenario, everyone is screwed, not just Zonies.

Politicians can only work in the reality they find, not one they themselves created. It's one reason why we don't really see profiles in courage out there. It would be pointless given the social nature of this reality. Moreover, pols have to act as if they can midwife solutions. To really tell the truth about this problem almost means pulling the curtain back on our collective amnesia. Maybe in some limited way we can avoid the worst catastrophic scenario out there. But for the greater part of mankind, it's game over.

The desert aways wins.

With all due respect, Cal, the desert is losing. At least the Sonoran Desert. Look around at the lost habitat, paved over forever. Imagine the declining rainfall and higher temperature effect on the unique plants and animals of our desert? It's heartbreaking.

That's the real tragedy of climate change: mass extinction because so many species cannot adapt.

The problem for man is when the tipping point of greatly lessened biodiversity begins to affect man's ability to survive. One need not be a scientist (all regards, soleri) to realize the potential for havoc in the food chains as integral links disappear.

That will happen; in many ways, it will likely be dire because man really doesn't have a good idea of the potential "domino effect" from climate change within different food chains.

This lack of understanding results from both man's greed set loose upon the planet and no past event quite like this "climate change" to gauge the scale and breadth of the disruption.

Give it time Jon.

land degradation and desertification in the sonoran desert
http://phoenix-arizona.weebly.com/land-degradation-of-the-sonoran.html

Deserts have grown gradually over millennia through desertification. The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) defines desertification as land degradation in arid, semi-arid and sub-humid areas resulting from various factors, including climatic variations and human activities.
According to the UNCCD, globally, 24% of the land is degrading, with nearly 20% of this being cropland, and 20-25%, rangeland. Over one billion people (15% of world population) are threatened with desertification, most of these in the developing world.
- See more at: http://www.agriculturesnetwork.org/magazines/east-africa/desertification/creeping-deserts-threaten-agro-pastoral-livelihoods#sthash.RrxI5LFs.dpuf

And Bob suggested planting trees. China is trying to stop the creeping desert with trees.
https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2014/02/01/can_chinas_great_green_wall_stop_its_creeping_deserts.html

Knock me over with a feather, I agree with soleri regarding the tipping point. It's all a documentary from here on out.

If the Earth coughs up another sentient species before the sun sputters out, I hope that there will be enough restorable digital artifacts so that these folk can see what we did wrong.

Sort of like a training manual. Because Fermi's Paradox seems to point to a terminal aspect of self-awareness.

Memory refresher via wiki:

The Fermi paradox is a conflict between arguments of scale and probability that seem to favor intelligent life being common in the universe, and a total lack of evidence of intelligent life having ever arisen anywhere other than on the Earth.

I posit that arrogance is a form of stupidity because it blinds the haughty to the potential consequences of their willful "blind" belief in their superiority.

This is man's Achilles Heel, and if we don't heed the warning signs, our extinction will loom.

One thing I keep mulling over is Marx's theory of alienation (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marx%27s_theory_of_alienation). Given how relentlessly stratified our lives are, did prosperity somehow redeem them? This was for the greater part of our part-war history the American Bargain, that capitalism would work for everyone, and it seemed to resolve a key component of both social and economic alienation. We might be working at drudge jobs, but we could still buy a house, take vacations, put our kids through college, etc. Now labor itself is virtually being outmoded by technology and globalization.

My sadness here is that I noticed the costs even during the really good times: people spreading like fire ants over the countryside to live in larger and larger houses, drive bigger and bigger cars, etc. This was my alienation from Arizona.

Making the economy work for everyone may be less of an issue going forward than simply keeping the biosphere somewhat inhabitable. All that said, it's a fairly abstract concern for most people. I wonder if we're sleepwalking into this catastrophe because so few people even realize it's looming on the horizon. Indeed, it might explain why denial is such a reflexive response in some people. As TS Eliot once put it, humankind cannot bear very much reality.

"The traditions of the dead generations weigh like a nightmare upon the living". Karl Marx

"Humans build their societies around consumption of fossil water long buried in the earth, and these societies, being based on temporary resources, face the problem of being temporary themselves". Charles Bowden.

"When religion and politics travel in the same cart, the riders believe nothing can stand in their way. Their movements become faster and faster and faster. They put aside all thoughts of obstacles and forget the precipice does not show itself to the man in a blind rush until its too late".
and
There is no real ending. It's just the place where you stop the story".
Frank Herbert.

Now comes the rule of the (hair) Pendejos.

soleri,

Not meaning to disagree with you, but I think you're being much too kind on humans, especially in America, by giving them the benefit of the doubt on what climate change is--and what it means going forward.

I sincerely believe that the vast majority of Americans understand any solutions to climate change pose a direct threat to their standard of living. They have no interest in having their "freedom" to have a "better life" being constricted in any way, however small. I think this one thing--a potentially lowered standard of living--informs the anti-government segment like no other.

Any constrictions on emissions or fuel efficiency, along with other forms of environmentally-friendly power sources would likely require government intervention for them to become large scale in the increasingly short timespan left before catastrophic changes occur.

These anti-government factions absolutely understand this dynamic. I'm sure, on some level, they may deny the actual speed that these changes will occur. But, from a greed perspective, they have very little interest in "sacrifice," especially for other countries or their people.

There is another part of this, and anyone wanting to understand the anti-climate change people has to accept it--the effect of religion. You see, I believe the majority of the climate change "deniers" actually believe that God will somehow make everything right--and undo climate change. They don't necessarily "deny," but they don't want to actually sacrifice their lifestyle. What they DON'T acknowledge is what their Bibles tell them: God will come, but it will be at the end.

The scientists may disagree with that, but the thought of God saving the planet from what man has created IS what the "deniers" are thinking.

Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.

Bradley, global warming is usually the last item on any list that voters think important. There's a reason for that, regardless how they explain it to themselves, although I think even that can give them too much credit for trying to puzzle through it.

It's always astonishing to me how many voters could not see the importance of a Republican congress deliberately trying to undermine the new president. McConnell was brazenly open about the strategy and yet it worked (see: midterm elections). Harry Truman ran against a do-nothing Congress in 1948, but there was still enough of a country back then to understand what higher patriotism was.

Deliberate disinformation is a problem, whether it's Republican talking points - see INHX - blaming Obama for House Republicans scuttling immigration reform, a week recovery, health-care reform, or climate change. Democracy, sadly, can't fix dumb voters or media that pander to confirmation bias rather than truth. Democracy essentially can only reflect the operational consensus that's out there. For many in our elites, democracy had been reduced to a game you play only to win, not to advance the national interest. This is what national suicide looks like.

Will Clinton's involvment in a recount make Trump go after her criminally?

Will Fillon be "The Donald" of France.

Every system breaks down in its own unique way.

So there's no way to predict the exact order of the coming calamities.

However, we can look forward to famine, a host of new diseases--and some once-thought-vanquished old ones.

There will be millions of new refugees. Perhaps hundreds of millions. Either from wars, both religious and territorial, the aforementioned famine and disease, the vagaries of climate change, or just the scarcity of resources that we take for granted.

And at this time, baring some unforeseen miracle, the most powerful nation on earth will be governed by a collection of grifters and fools, totally lacking in empathy for anyone not like them, with a narcissistic, intellectually challenged carnival barker, who only cares about two things, himself and money, pretending to be Commander in Chief.

Interesting times.

I enjoyed the article, Jon. I am working my way through your Phoenix book currently as time allows and have quite enjoyed it so far, as I knew I would!

Regarding the posts about climate change, on the plus side, the international treaty recently signed was, and is, a BIG deal no matter what happens with Trump. There are many much more environmentally-concerned countries than the USA and I'd like to think they'll continue to carry the banner regardless of what the USA does.

Granted, it would help if were mindful of our impact on the environment, but that's how I have always felt, even before climate change came to the forefront. We are supposed to be good stewards of this earth that God has given us.

Even if it turned out that global warming was not anthropogenic...it's not like it would be BAD to reduce our impact on and destruction of the environment, right? That's what I think people miss, sometimes, in politicizing everything. By politicizing climate change, it seems many politicians have found a way to punt on the environment and avoid doing anything at all about it.

Richard Nixon, among his many accomplishments, did many tremendous things for the environment; where are the similarly thoughtful conservative leaders of today?

Our water shortages will not kill the cities, but they will strangle more and more of our irrigated agriculture. Granted, many of these crops are pretty inefficient in terms of water used vs. profit gained, but this used to be an agricultural nation and I'm always sad to see that go as someone who comes from a homesteading, farming and ranching family.

At least Arizona doesn't have a Salton Sea problem on our hands as we slowly turn off the tap to our farmers.

I'm still quite concerned about the effects of a dried-out Salton Sea and all that toxic, blowing dust, but there's nothing Arizona can do, we just have to wait and see what if anything California does to deal with that ongoing crisis. The Salton Sea is indeed man's past mistakes come back to bite him in the rear, big time, and I think it will be an increasing national story in years and decades to come.

I used to listen to my Grandmother tell me stories about living through the Dust Bowl. They would put wet towels around all the windows and door frames/jambs and yet still the dust would blow into the house and the rooms inside would get so dark and thick with dust in the air it was hard to see even with the oil lamps burning.

http://saltonsea.ca.gov/

Scroll down and you can click on the May 2016 report, it's about 100 pages of interesting reading. Unfortunately, vast expanses of exposed playa seems to be part of any solution proposed and as we've seen with Owens Lake which is less than a tenth of the size of the Salton Sea, dust mitigation is not as easy as one would like to think.

Imperial County already has disastrous rates of asthma and other respiratory issues, especially in children, the worst in the nation IIRC from the articles I've read. And even those of us who live here in the Phoenix metro area know many people, especially children, who have respiratory issues, be it asthma or coughing fits or vaguely defined "allergies" or sinus problems, etc. In looking at my own family and the people I know and work with, such issues are practically endemic.

I sometimes wonder if our air is much more polluted/toxic than any of us really even fully comprehends.

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