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VICTOR JOECKS: California’s dam problem: Wasted rainwater

The people most concerned about global warming do the least to counteract its supposed effects.

A massive rainstorm has drenched California in recent days. Since Sunday, this atmospheric river dumped 9 inches of rain on downtown Los Angeles. Residents have had to deal with mudslides and flooding. Hundreds of thousands of people lost power.

Many news reports blame climate change.

“Record California storm fueled by bomb cyclone, El Niño, climate change,” a Washington Post headline asserted.

“Climate change worsens California’s historic rainfall,” an Axios headline said.

“Climate change is also upping the frequency of such events,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

But that’s not all the “experts” blame climate change for. It’s also supposedly responsible for the West’s ongoing dry spell. A recent study in Science Advances asserted that the West’s current drought conditions “are likely unprecedented since at least the 16th century.”

There are many reasons to doubt the global warming alarmists: The branding switched from global warming to climate change because warming wasn’t keeping up with predictions; the decades of failed predictions by climate Chicken Littles; the hubris of thinking computer projections can capture all climate-related variables and how they interact with each other over decades; the cult-like attacks on those who disagree with the prevailing orthodoxy; and how the left attacks nuclear energy despite claiming global warming is an existential crisis.

But leave all that aside. For the sake of argument, assume that humans using fossil fuels caused global warming. Ask yourself this: Would you rather go back 500 years ago when the Earth was cooler?

Of course not. Oxford professor Max Roser estimates that before 1800 the global child mortality rate was nearly 50 percent. Other researchers estimate the infant mortality rate — children dying before they reached the age of 1 — was once 27 percent. In the past 200 years, both rates plummeted around the world.

In 1524, there was no air conditioning, cars or cellphones. Bloodletting was a common medical treatment. Humans didn’t even have toilet paper. In colonial America, people commonly used corncobs or newspapers.

No matter how much you disagree with me, I wouldn’t recommend that.

The takeaway should be obvious. Even if you believe the world is warming, humans are doing much better than when it was cooler.

That’s because temperature or climate aren’t the most important variables in human success. It’s how people and societies adapt to what’s around them, including the weather and climate.

That leads us back to California. Billions of gallons of rain fell and then poured into the ocean. It’s possible to divert more of that water and store it for future use. One such project is the Sites Reservoir in Northern California. It has been talked about for several decades, but it’s still in the planning-and-lawsuit phase. Environmental groups want dams dismantled, not built.

The next time someone frets about climate change, remember California’s dam problem. Stop complaining about the weather and proactively adapt to it.

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on X.

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