Good News! It's Snowing!

Recently, Molly Taft at Gizmodo proclaimed, "California's Epic Snowstorms Are Great News."  Great  news, indeed, with snowfall running some 150% above normal for the Sierra Nevadas, or "200% of average for snow water equivalent."

For years, climate alarmists bemoaned the multiyear drought that, they insisted, would utterly "destroy" California.  The drought, they wrote, was the product of global warming and was thus more or less permanent.  Say goodbye to California agriculture; life in California cities; and, eventually, life on Earth.

Those claims were false, as this year's massive Sierra snow-pack shows.  When the snow melts in the spring, that water will fill the reservoirs, irrigate the crops, and help fulfill the needs of California cities.  Even before the strong start to this year's snowfall, the 2012–2016 drought had begun to abate.  If the snowfall continues through the spring, drought conditions will abate in much of the state.

That's not good enough for environmentalists, who respond that it will take more than one snowfall to end drought conditions, which may be true, and who predict that by 2050, there may be successive years with no snow-pack at all — which seems like wild speculation.

The California drought was highly politicized from the beginning, with environmental regulators insisting that much of California's precious water supply must be released into the Pacific Ocean to support wildlife.  As Victor Davis Hanson points out in The Dying Citizen (2021), California "restricts long-ago contracted water allotments to Central Valley agriculture on the theory that ever greater percentages of stored Sierra Nevada and Northern California water should be freed to flow ... to the sea."  Hanson also notes that only one major dam has been built in California during the past 40 years (while many have been removed) — this despite the fact "that thirty million Californians live in naturally desert conditions" (Dying Citizen, p. 57).

Certainly, California has been experiencing a water crisis, just as it has had a forest fire crisis, an energy crisis, a housing crisis, a homelessness crisis, and a hundred other crises, but all of them are man-made.  The reasonable course of action for water supply is to release overflow only, build more dams, and apply market-based pricing to control demand.  There might have been a shortage, but there never would have been a "crisis" if environmentalists had not gotten involved in what is quite simply a market for an essential product.

The truth is that there have always been droughts and periods of high rainfall.  The climate changes, and it has done so for eons.  Today, it is only one degree Celsius higher than it was in 1850 — a time of unusual cold.  In other words, today's "heat" is a return to more normal conditions that existed before the Little Ice Age (1300 to 1850 A.D.).

Long-term trends are more important than alarmism over "recent" changes (meaning whatever period will support one's position).  Using a remarkable compilation of snowfall data for U.S. cities with a continuous hundred-year record of accurate snowfall data, Christopher C. Burt provides some objective observations:

– that "the 1920s and 1930s [not recent decades, as environmentalists insist] seem to have been the least snowy decades since 1900" and

– that "the 1960s and 1970s seem to have been the snowiest decades."

The Earth's climate has always alternated between warm and cold, and we may now be shifting back toward cold.  If that's the case, Joe Biden's efforts, and those of other world leaders, to drive temperatures lower represent the greatest boondoggle in history.  Instead of a futile effort to lower temperatures on top of what may be a natural cycling back to the cold, we need to be reducing taxes so individuals can make provision for whatever challenges nature has in store.

Given the misguided government policies, including the refusal to clear undergrowth and harvest trees from mature forests, natural emergencies are going to be greater than what they might have been.  And with Biden's war on fossil fuels, it's going to be expensive to deal with those emergencies.  Those who have lost their homes in Colorado's Boulder County will need extra funds to get through the emergency and rebuild, but rising inflation, driven by Biden's energy policies, will make that difficult.  Half of U.S. homes are heated by natural gas, and in just one year, Biden has driven natural gas prices up from $2.03 per m Btu in 2020 under President Trump to $3.90 in 2021 under Biden.  And it's not just natural gas: heating oil is up 115% and propane up 148%.  That's thousands of dollars per family that could have gone to preparing for disasters.

The prices that consumers are paying are a direct result of Biden's crippling drilling regulations and lease restrictions — along with pipeline shutdowns and non-approvals for new pipelines.  It's not nature that is causing these price increases: it is progressive politicians like Joe Biden.  What's Biden's solution?  Continue reducing the supply of fossil fuels and increase handouts through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, paid for by middle-class and affluent taxpayers.

Nature is giving California a break this year, but progressives continue to talk about destroying what dams the state has left.  Over 100 dams have been removed during the last 30 years, and other large dams, including the Matilija and the Scott Dam, are targeted for removal.  It's not climate change that is behind California's many crises; it's left-wing politicians supported by environmental activists who seem to think human life is less precious than that of snails and insects and fish. 

When it comes to snowfall measurement, drought prediction, water management, forest management, and every other practical matter, environmentalists have a poor record.  The truth is that our climate is constantly changing.  It was drier in the 1930s than it is today, and it is impossible to know what conditions will be like in 2050.  It's also impossible to lower temperatures, even if we wished to lower them, by doubling natural gas prices or raising CAFE standards on new cars.  The only effect of Biden's misguided energy policies is to drive more Americans into poverty.  That effect will be painfully obvious when the next economic recession hits, as some expect before the end of 2022.

While Biden fiddles with his dreams of E.V. charging stations and windmills papering the continent, ordinary Americans have been hurting and will hurt more in the next few years.  The Sierra snowfalls will help one region of the country, at least for a time, but Biden is setting us back faster than anything nature can do to help.  The California drought shows signs of ending, but progressives are just getting started.  Mother Nature would stop them if she could, but only voters can do that, at the polls in 2022 and 2024.

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).

Image: Zink Dawg via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0 (cropped).

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