Climate smarts

To view James Hansen’s new report, go to the website for Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America at, and search for “Perception of climate change.”

Extreme weather is the new norm. And the NASA scientist who first rang the alarm in 1988 about global warming just revealed once and for all that human activities—mostly the burning of fossil fuels—are responsible.

In a new study for the National Academy of Sciences, James Hansen used statistical analysis instead of climate modeling to prove that the European heat wave of 2003, Russian heat wave of 2010, Texas heat wave of 2011, and current U.S. drought and consequent irreparable damage to huge swaths of crops across Oklahoma and the Midwest all are a direct result of the human-caused warming of the Earth.

“This is not some scientific theory,” Hansen said. “We are now experiencing scientific fact.”

Could the undeniable “fact” of these extreme weather events finally cause the people and governments of the world to wake up and take action to avert the worst consequences of the climate crisis?

We believe it’s possible.

And the first step in that process will be to learn from the institutions that have already been successful in creating large-scale programs that reward energy efficiency, utilize renewable energy and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

Surprise: One of those institutions is right here in Sacramento. We’re talking, of course, about SMUD, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, an entity that has been working hard and smart in this realm for decades.

Case in point: the smart grid.

SMUD was way out front when it launched a plan to install high-tech or “smart” meters in 600,000 of the region’s residential and business establishments. Before the smart meters, people got feedback on their home or office energy usage after the fact, only once a month. But as of last spring, a new smart grid makes two-way communication possible, in real time, between an individual at his or her meter and the central system. The new grid allows for all kinds of individual awakenings (about personal-energy usage), group efficiencies and cost savings.

The smart grid—versions of which have been (or are now being) rolled out in a dozen other cities in America—has already been heralded as a windfall for local ratepayers, the city and the utility. It’s just one of many climate-wise tools that will help us achieve the transformation we need to make soon.

We’re proud of SMUD and its environmental leadership on behalf of our community and the planet. In speaking to SN&R many years ago, SMUD’s chief executive officer John DiStasio postulated, “I think [the smart grid] will be a game changer.”

Well, here’s to changing the game.