Heat Waves and Climate Change

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you probably suffered a number of brutally hot days in July. Heat waves, peak energy consumption, brownouts, and heat-related illnesses and deaths hit communities from Los Angeles to London and beyond. The first half of 2006 has been the hottest on record in the U.S. These conditions have led many to ask, “Is this global warming?”

Drought in Afghanistan, 2002
Afghanistan Drought, 2002

The answer is a qualified “Yes.”

“It’s hot because it’s summer, but the record heat waves we’ve seen are indicative of global warming,” said Pacific Institute President Peter Gleick. “As the average temperature on the globe continues to rise, we can expect more 100 degree (F) days.” A member of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Gleick has been studying the potential impacts of climate change for more than 20 years, and won a 2003 MacArthur fellowship for his work on climate change, water resources, and environmental security.

Unfortunately, corresponding sea level rise threatens to wipe out one of our favorite heat-wave escapes: the beach. Sea level rise of 1- to 3-feet over the next 100 years could severely erode or eliminate many beaches and increase coastal flooding. Changes in rainfall are harder to predict, but changes in traditional rain patterns and an increase in extreme weather events are expected. That is bad news for coastal areas and inland water basins already plagued by water pollution.

“Global warming is here, and it’s happened faster than many of us thought. We’re going to have to adapt to unavoidable climate changes while simultaneously working to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions,” said Gleick. “My hope is that our technological and institutional adaptation can at least keep up with the growing consequences of rising temperatures.”

Learn more about the Institute’s Global Change program.

Institute New Member of Global Reporting Initiative

The Pacific Institute reached another benchmark in its effort to advance sustainability reporting, becoming an Organizational Stakeholder with Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). GRI is a multi-stakeholder network that develops the most widely used international standards for economic, environmental, and social reporting. As an Organizational Stakeholder, the Institute will formally participate in GRI’s multi-stakeholder process to improve and promote the use of a globally-applicable sustainability reporting framework.

Jason Morrison
Morrison, speaking at the ISO meeting

“With 43 countries represented, GRI is truly an international effort that the Pacific Institute is proud to join,” said Jason Morrison, Institute Program Director. “The diversity of stakeholders – including Hewlett Packard, Oxfam, Ceres, Nike, Ford, and PricewaterhouseCoopers – encourages us in our effort to promote disclosure of sustainable business practices.”

According to the GRI Web site, “GRI’s vision is that reporting on economic, environmental, and social performance by all organizations is as routine and comparable as financial reporting.” You can learn more about the Institute’s work on corporate social responsibility here.

Institute Joins Social/Environmental Labelling Alliance

The Pacific Institute is one of a few inaugural Affiliate Members of the International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling (ISEAL) Alliance. As part of the ISEAL Alliance, the Institute joins other leading international standard-setting, certification, and accreditation organizations focused on social and environmental labeling efforts. The collaboration with ISEAL has been ongoing since the Institute provided research on certification and trade policy (PDF) for the Alliance in 2004.

“Being an Affiliate Member of ISEAL will strengthen the Institute’s coordination with its member organizations,” said Jason Morrison, Institute Program Director. “Working strategically with the ISEAL Alliance, we will collaborate to create and promote voluntary social and environmental standards in the private and public sector.”

According to the ISEAL Alliance Web site, “Taken individually, the standards and verification systems of ISEAL members represent efforts to define issue-specific elements of social and environmental sustainability. Taken together, they represent a holistic movement that has the potential to change the way the world does business. The ISEAL Alliance provides the framework to support the growth of that movement.” You can learn more about the Pacific Institute’s CSR work here.

Also of note: The Institute has released its latest International NGO Network on ISO Newsletter.


“The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”

- Louis D. Brandeis, Supreme Court Justice 1916-1939. Read about the Institute’s Scientific Integrity initiative


8/3/06-8/4/06. Sierra Watershed [Western Sierras, Calif.] Heather Cooley will attend the Water Education Foundation tour to learn about water issues in the Sierra Watershed.

8/29/06. World’s Water [Cincinnati, Ohio] Peter Gleick will give a keynote address on “The State of the World’s Water and New Thinking for the Future” to the 8th Annual WDSA Water Distribution Systems Analysis Symposium.

8/29/06. Salton Sea [San Diego, Calif.] Michael Cohen will participate on a Salton Sea panel at the 13th Annual Urban Water Conference.

Editorial Boards Pump Desalination Report

Since its release in June, the Institute’s newest report “Desalination, With a Grain of Salt — A California Perspective” has raised numerous eyebrows and enjoyed a fair amount of praise, as well as some criticism from both the environmental community and the desalination industry. Uncompromising research will do that.

Don't Sit Idle

The Institute is especially proud of two nods it received from the editorial pages in July. The Sacramento Bee wrote “The bearish news (on desalination) comes from the Pacific Institute, one of the state’s most respected water think tanks. In surveying more than 20 proposed desalination projects around the state, Pacific Institute concludes that they flunk the feasibility test of surviving absent significant subsidies from outside sources, namely state taxpayers.”

A few days later, Los Angeles’s Daily Breeze also highlighted the report, writing, “As water agencies in the Los Angeles basin study the idea of building huge water desalination plants in the South Bay, it’s a good time to consider all the economic and environmental consequences before moving ahead too fast.”

The Institute is neither for nor against desalination. The Institute favors thoughtful, careful, economical, and appropriate water planning and management. We caution against rushing toward new solutions to our complex water problems without a full consideration of all costs and benefits. Read the report.

“(It) is dead.”

- Peter Gleick on the proverbial canary in the climate change coal mine, from “Business On A Warmer Planet”


Contracts for water not so fluid Dallas Morning News, 7/1/20

Editorial: Desalination a dud? Sacramento Bee, 7/3/06

Editorial: State shouldn’t rush into desalination Daily Breeze, 7/7/06

Jobless people in Soweto seek more free council water BusinessDay 7/14/20

Business On A Warmer Planet, BusinessWeek, 7/17/06

Court battle looms about basic water supply Independent Online, 7/17/06

Climate change seen hurting national parks San Francisco Chronicle, 7/26/06

You think this is hot? Wait till next year The Argus, 7/27/06

Historic Water Conservation Measures Advanced by Water Utilities and Environmental Groups BusinessWire, 7/27/06


7/21/06. California Water Policy [Anaheim, Calif.] Michael Cohen and Heather Cooley attended the Water Education Foundation’s 13th Annual Water Education Foundation’s Water Policy & Law Briefing. Cohen participated on the “Salton Sea Solutions: Effect on Southern California” panel. Cooley presented the Pacific Institute’s latest report, “Desalination, With a Grain of Salt.”

7/20/06. Colorado River [San Ysidro, Calif.] Michael Cohen met with IBWC/CILA to finalize the table of conservation projects and other activities occurring in the Colorado River Delta.

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