Friday, July 25, 2014

A carbon tax is key to our future

From page A10 | February 07, 2014 |

By Marvin Goldman

The headlines these days are all about our Western drought and what it means for our lifestyle and near-term future. This drought is not simply a local issue but it is a part of a global climate problem. I think our drought message is telling us to do a lot more, and do it now.

My proposed solution for the long-term drought threat is for us all to enact a global carbon tax with no exceptions, as well as some immediate useful water conservation policies.

Our immediate drought is an extreme facet of local climate; we will have more wet years soon. But the wet years won’t be as wet and as often as in the past. A study of global climate data leads me to this inevitable conclusion; even though there is debate about the exact numbers, there is no doubt about the direction of the trend. There is global scientific agreement that the root cause of these imbalances in climate are driven by the excess production of greenhouse gases, e.g., carbon dioxide and methane, created by our avid burning of fossil fuels.

Our lifestyle and agriculture are receiving a serious message about what “normal climate” may mean in the future. Our discussion of water conservation and use policies must go beyond whether we suck some more water out of the Sacramento River or drill more wells. The river is drying up and the wells are exhausting the aquifer supply faster than it can be replenished.

Although three-quarters of our planet is covered by water, 97 percent of all of our water is in the salty, non-potable oceans. Fresh water is only about 3 percent of our planet’s water, and all of that came from ocean evaporation. However, about 2.3 percent of Earth’s fresh water is frozen in the poles and Greenland and on mountaintops. All our rivers and lakes have less than 1 percent of the Earth’s fresh water, and 7 billion (going on 9 billion) people want it.

So will global warming melt some of that ice and get us more fresh water? Will global warming evaporate more of the oceans and get us more rainfall and refill our aquifers? There’s no shortage of water, but there certainly is a serious distribution and availability problem.

The sad story about fresh water distribution and availability is related to the fact that global warming is altering the main ocean currents, warming the ocean’s surface and changing the climate on every continent. Historically, our country just finished a century of rather “wet” weather related to our estimates of the climate over previous centuries. This apparent contradiction is related to comparing our continent to the rest of the planet.

The trend in our west is to likely return us to the primordial desert, while the jet streams and all the other climate-forcing factors slowly move the temperate zone northward.

We are capable of implementing more green technologies, “dry” agriculture, fewer golf courses and ski resorts, different landscaping and reduced domestic water uses. I know that we can do it without it being politically translated into confiscatory depredation and deprivation rhetoric.

The transition costs can be paid for with the gradual, graded implementation of a carbon tax. I see no alternative for us if we want to have a future. I sincerely hope that our ensuing discussion and actions can proceed without tearing up the country, (and the world). I worry more about what we will ultimately face if all we is just do some more talking and then fail to really start acting on this threat.

— Marvin Goldman is a longtime Davis resident and professor emeritus of radiation biology and biophysics at UC Davis.

Special to The Enterprise


Discussion | 8 comments

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  • February 07, 2014 - 5:44 am

    How does Mr. Goldman explain that California had drought cycles before the invention of the combustible engine?

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  • S.TrotterFebruary 07, 2014 - 4:36 pm

    Mr. Goldman's article is spot on. Apparently too scientific for some, but he certainly outlines policies which could and should be acted upon, immediately. I'd like to see this kind of information on the front page of every newspaper in Ca. if not all of America.

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  • MartinFebruary 07, 2014 - 5:52 pm

    Excellent points are made in this article.

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  • greg johnsonFebruary 07, 2014 - 6:18 pm

    I agree that climate change is a concern. However, imposing a "global carbon tax" is easier said than done. Why don't we have a global peace pact and end all wars? Good message but pie in the sky idea.

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  • Rich RifkinFebruary 07, 2014 - 6:39 pm

    Greg, it could be done through a WTO treaty, and it could be enforced the same way the GATT treaty is. I think the bigger problem would be getting the US Senate to ratify such an unpopular pact.

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  • Greg JohnsonFebruary 08, 2014 - 12:35 pm

    I don't oppose the idea. I'm not so sure the US senate would be the end of the resistance.

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  • Rich RifkinFebruary 07, 2014 - 6:36 pm

    I, too, favor a global carbon tax. However, Prof. Goldman says something up front which is not, as far as I know, supported by scientific evidence. He writes, "Our immediate drought is an extreme facet of local climate; we will have more wet years soon. But the wet years won’t be as wet and as often as in the past." ................ The best expert at UC Davis on the impacts of climate change on California, Bryan Weare, concluded this, regarding our future rain patterns: "The IPCC climate models generally put the western United States between a broad band of future precipitation increases to the north and decreases to the south. The most reasonable expectation is that total precipitation over the West is unlikely to change substantially from that of today." .............. Although we will get as much rain as we normally do now, Professor Weare told me a few years back that our regions faces a grave threat from a future lack of snow pack. He said our winter and spring temperatures in the Sierra Nevada will rise. And as a result, snow will melt earlier and it won't snow as much in the 4,000 to 6,000 foot elevations due to the higher air temps. Since most of our water is stored in the snow pack, that is a real threat. The rivers which are fed by melting snow in the summer and fall will have no water to feed them, and they will run dry.

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  • Curt MillerFebruary 09, 2014 - 4:34 pm

    More whoop-whoop fromthe progressive/enviro crowd. The author apparently didn't get the memo. 'Global warming' is out; 'climate change' is in! These people apparently don't know the earth's climate has been changing for eons - and it always will. While the climate clowns want to put the U.S. economy in a carbon straight jacket, the rest of the world motors along emitting CO2 so they can, I don't know, get their people out of poverty and improve living standards? Inconvenient facts and crushing costs have led Australia, Britain, Germany, and other countries to pull back on carbon sanctions and dump the absurd renewable energy mandates that threaten to wreck their economies. Why the Enterprise keeps publishing this stuff is beyond me...

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