In Las Vegas, Nevada, it’s come to this: climate change has helped make water increasingly scarce, so according to a new Nevada law, the grass has to go. “When we look at outdoor water use in Southern Nevada, landscaping is far and away the biggest user of water, and of that, it’s grass,” said Bronson Mack of the Las Vegas Water Authority.
The city has already amassed about four million square feet of grass on public property so far this year, because thirsty greenways are something they just can’t afford anymore. “The grass you see behind me is not much for this world,” Mack told correspondent Tracy Smith. “In fact, within the next two months to a year, that grass will be completely eliminated and replaced with trees and drip-irrigated plants.”
And every drop counts. So water waste investigators (aka water cops) patrol neighborhoods, noting who waters when and how much of that water goes down the drain.
Living through the summer of ’22 made it harder to deny climate change, whether here in bone-dry Nevada or in the Caribbean, where rampant algae growth is choking the beaches. or Kentucky, where too much water created a tragedy that is still unfolding.
However, it seems that there are still those who could be convinced that climate change has become a climate emergency.
Last spring a team of scientistsin protest at the lack of action. “We’re going to lose everything and we’re not kidding,” said one protester, Dr. Peter Kalmus. “We’re not lying, we’re not exaggerating. This is so bad, everyone.”
Smith asked Kalmus, “Do you feel like you’re sitting around with all this science and you’re trying to share it with the world and nobody’s listening?”
“That’s exactly how I feel, yes,” he replied.
A NASA scientist and father of two, Kalmus said we should be scared to death about the climate right now. “I think if your house is on fire, you get an adrenaline rush, you panic, and that saves your life, because you get out of the house and put the fire out.”
“So you want people to freak out about it?”
“I I am doing I want people to freak out, yeah. I don’t think people freak out enough. There is not enough public urgency for this.”
For starters, Kalmus wants people to know how the world will feel in the coming summers.
Smith asked, “If this summer is so ridiculously hot, what will next summer be like?”
“It’s generally an upward trend,” he replied. “Twenty years from now, we’re going to look back at the summer of 2022 and wish we had it this good. We wish it was this cool. And that’s no exaggeration.”
And for the most part, the scientific community is behind him: o Report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change it’s basically the last word on where we are, and that word is bleak, says the report’s lead author Sarah Burch.
He told Smith that the bad news coming out of the IPCC report is that “We’re not on track at the moment to limit warming to less than two degrees. And that’s the limit we’ve set and the scientists have told us it’s important, because it helps to avoid the worst effects of climate change.”
So, what does two degrees of warming mean? We asked Neil deGrasse Tyson to break it down for us: “How many degrees was the Ice Age 20,000 years ago? Eight degrees colder. Eight degrees colder, we have an Ice Age where the glaciers reach the middle of the United States of America.”
“So does even half a point make a huge difference?” asked Smith.
“In your life, what’s half a point to you or me? Two points, who cares? Earth, it matters. It matters,” Tyson said. “Eight degrees colder, the glaciers are reaching St. Louis. Two degrees warmer, we’re losing our coastline. Go up a little higher, I don’t even want to be around to see this.”
“If the ice caps melt, how high could the waters go?”
“From the ice caps. ocean water levels will rise and reach the left elbow of the Statue of Liberty — that’s her left hand holding the document,” Tyson said. “I don’t even want to think about it.”
Tyson, an astrophysicist who has put some of his cosmic perspectives into a forthcoming book, “Starry Messenger: Cosmic Perspectives on Civilization” (Henry Holt and Co.), says that the future of our planet can be written in the stars – or at least in our planetary neighbors.
Tyson said, “Do you realize that Venus is basically the same size as Earth, has the same surface gravity as Earth? It might have been just like Earth, but something bad happened to Venus. They have a greenhouse effect. It’s 900 ° Fahrenheit on Venus. And I did the math on it: You can cook a 16-inch pepperoni pizza on the windowsill in three seconds, okay? Is that a benefit of that? Maybe!
“But, I want to know what knobs nature turned there, because if we turn the same knobs on Earth artificially, that’s bad. This does not bode well for the future of life on Earth, but especially for the civilization built over the last 10,000 years, during a period of relative stability in our climate.”
The point is that even if more and more people believe we are headed for disaster (and the polls seem to indicate so), the key is to do something about it, and fast.
Smith asked Sarah Birch, “Simply put, do we know what to do?”
“Absolutely,” she replied. “We know we need to move our electricity away from coal and highly polluting fossil fuels, and toward the sun and wind. We know what we need to do to our buildings to make them more efficient. We need to insulate them, we need to to Heat them with heat pumps instead of using natural gas, coal and oil.
“So we have this list of really practical solutions that we know will work. But accelerating uptake is the trick now. That’s the challenge.”
Congress is moving toward legislation that would provide billions in clean energy tax incentives and more.
But for now, we’ve learned to adapt – and in Nevada, that means more than pulling up grass.
Lake Mead, one of the main sources of water in the area, is drying up faster than ever. The white “tub ring” shows just how much.
Some of the intake pipes that carry water downstream are already protruding over the water line. But if the lake’s water level drops too low to flow downstream, or becomes what they call a “dead pool,” people in Southern Nevada have a plan: They’ve built a low-lake pumping station near where the water used to be . edge. Huge pipes connect to a new intake, almost a drain, at the bottom of Lake Mead so they can keep pumping water to the last available drop.
Smith asked Water Authority Chief John Enzminger, “Could you see that coming, that you had to do something?”
“Absolutely,” he replied. “We didn’t need a crystal ball to know we had to prepare to protect our community.”
And while scientists can see the worst of what lies ahead, they can also see a way forward. Smith asked Burts why he still has hope.
“The other side of that coin is that over the last 10 years we’ve also seen evidence of real, sustained reductions in greenhouse gases,” he replied. “Well, what that tells me is that we have a road map. We already have the technologies, the policies, the actions that we need to get to where we want to be.”
“Should we just follow the road map?”
“That’s right. And move faster! Move faster down this road.”
Tyson added, “We’re all one race, the human race. And I’d like to think that we can all come together and solve problems without killing ourselves.”
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John D’Amelio production story. Editing: Steven Tyler.