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California's drought - the business end of climate change

The San Francisco Bay Area finally got some rain this week – and that was major news, as we have gone 153 days without truly measurable rainfall.

As this dramatic series of time-lapse images in the Huffington Post illustrates, climate change is having a big impact in California. Our reservoirs are drying up. Our forests are tinder-dry and we are about to blow through our state fire-fighting budget less than three months into our fiscal year.  Farmers are desperate for water; water restrictions are in place in many parts of the state, and it got so hot in Southern California that this bear decided to take a dip in a backyard pool.

So any meteorological glimmer of hope – no matter how modest – gets our attention. California’s dire drought situation was just one of a thousand stories told during this week’s Climate Week in New York, where elected officials, activists, and financial leaders converged to discuss our rapidly developing climate crisis.  Local events – drought, extreme weather, storm surges, and rising seas  – are bringing climate change home to people across America and around the world. As the Risky Business Project illustrates, events like these are fast becoming the new normal.

A major focus of the week’s coverage was the costs of climate change to businesses and the dawning realization that advanced energy is increasingly a good economic bet. Many businesses are getting that they need to aggressively address climate change in their own business practices, and some are even making the case for specific government action to finally put a price on carbon

On the government side, these issues are finally broadening out from the realm of environmental ministers and into the world of basic fiscal responsibility. Mayors, governors, and national leaders are making the case that we’ll all be paying the costs of climate change as we dip into public coffers to fight fires, clean up after storms, and reimburse homeowners and businesses after extreme events. 

For far too long climate change has been framed as a “jobs versus the environment” issue. That premise is now crumbling as the public wakes up to the true costs of a continued reliance on fossil fuels – and that our investments in advanced energy will save us money in the long run and can provide a huge boost to the American economy.

In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed for more rain – and check the pool carefully before your next swim.

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