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Have You Filled Out Your Bracket Yet? Which Climate Deniers Will Make It to the Final Four?

Climate

You can't do much to influence the NCAA college basketball championship tournament, one of the biggest events in college sports, going on right now. But you can help pick the winner of the Climate Change Fantasy Tournament, which kicked off this morning.

It's being hosted by Organizing for Action (OFA), the nonprofit community organizing group that grew out of President Obama's campaign, Obama for America/Organizing for America, to promote the president's priorities. Apparently, one of them is using the current newsiness of the tournament known as the "NCAA Final Four" and "March Madness" to call out climate-denying politicians in Congress.

Will one of these four take the denier crown in the Climate Change Fantasy Tournament? Image credit: Organizing for Action

"Despite the overwhelming scientific agreement that climate change is real and man-made, these sixteen members of Congress prefer to live in a fantasy world, refusing to accept the basic facts," it says. "You can learn more about their denial here. Help us pick the worst of the worst. Vote now!"

The "tournament" features regional brackets for the midwest, south/central, south/east and west in which four contestants will vie to make it to the "Embarrassing Eight," with an opportunity to shoot for the "Flunked-Science Four" to reach the "Denial Finals" and possibly win the whole thing to be celebrated as the most vocally ignorant, science-averse member of Congress.

One hot first-round match-up squares off Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, who has written a book claiming that global warming is "the greatest hoax" and a "conspiracy," against Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who just yesterday told NASA to concentrate on space and forget about climate change, saying "Stop talking so much about the terrible things we’re doing to our planet and just go away. Far, far away.”

A potential second-round face-off in the midwest division could pit Iowa representative Steve King, who has said that believing in climate change is "more of a religion than a science," against House Speaker John Boehner, who has thrown up his hands and refused to lead, saying things like "I'm not qualified to debate the science over climate change" and calling the idea that carbon emissions are harmful "almost comical."

What's really scary is that the 16 tournament competitors were chosen from a field of 162 elected officials, all of whose head-in-the-sand statements and actions you can learn about on the "Find Deniers" page at the Organizing for Action website.

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The last time San Francisco did not record a drop of rain in February was in 1864 as the Civil War raged.

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On Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor said nearly 60 percent of the state was abnormally dry, up from 46 percent just last week, according to The Mercury News in San Jose.

The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.

"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.

Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.

Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.

"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.

NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.

As the climate crisis escalates and the world continues to heat up, California should expect to see water drawn out of its ecosystem, making the state warmer and drier. Increased heat will lead to further loss of snow, both as less falls and as more of it melts quickly, according to The Guardian.

"We aren't going to necessarily see less rain, it's just that that rain goes less far. That's a future where the flood risk extends, with bigger wetter storms in a warming world," said Swain, as The Guardian reported.

The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.

"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."

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