The bright side of California’s drought: More solar power

520-drought-silver-lining-solarAs the four-year-long California drought goes from terrible to catastrophic, it’s hard to find any good news.

Love almonds? I’m so sorry for your loss. Water-hungry almond growers have begun to abandon hope, as evidenced by stacks of almond firewood on sale at Whole Foods. Farmers have started to sell water to cities rather than use it to grow crops. Many migrant laborers are out of work because there are fewer crops to plant or harvest. Fish are threatened by record-low runoff, possibly spelling the end of the Delta smelt. The all-important Sierra Nevada snowpack, which doles out water through the dry season as it melts, is at 6 percent of typical levels. Well diggers have become water miners, chasing an ever-declining water table in pursuit of water last seen in the Pleistocene.

The drought, either induced or exacerbated by climate change, is in turn making climate change worse. As California’s reservoirs dry up, hydroelectric power production is dropping. The Pacific Institute recently calculated that the loss of hydropower from 2012 to 2014 drove up power sector carbon emissions 8 percentand cost consumers $1.4 billion, as utilities replaced it with more expensive, and more polluting, natural gas.


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