|Walter Edward Williams is an American economist, commentator, and academic. He is the John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics at George Mason University, as well as a syndicated columnist and author known for his libertarian views|
Californians are experiencing their third year of drought. Headlines read: “Current California Drought Is Driest In State’s History; Scientists Fear ‘Megadroughts’ On Their Way.” “Global Warming Upped Heat Driving California’s Drought.” Then there are scientific claims such as, “There’s a rapidly growing body of scientific research finding that California is in the midst of its worst drought in over a millennium (and) global warming has made the drought worse.” A Stanford University study said, “Human-caused climate change helped fuel the current California drought.” One news outlet summarized the conclusions of a group of environmentalists this way: “California's severe and ongoing drought is just a taste of the dry years to come, thanks to global warming.”'
Let’s examine a few drought facts. California experienced eight major droughts in the 20th century, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. They ranged from two years to as long as nine years, such as that which occurred from 1928 to 1937. In the previous century, there was the bitter drought of 1862-65, which was a catastrophe for the state of California -- made worse by a smallpox epidemic. Scott Stine -- professor of geography and environmental studies at California State University, East Bay -- said that all of these modern droughts were minor compared with California’s ancient droughts of 850 to 1090 and 1140 to 1320. One wonders whether California Gov. Jerry Brown and his cadre of environmental extremists would attribute those ancient droughts to man-made global warming.
A large part of California’s water problem has economic roots. Whenever there’s a shortage of anything -- whether it's water or seats at a baseball stadium -- our first suspicion should be that the price is too low. California agriculture consumes about 80 percent of the state’s delivered water, and it has been exempted from many of California's new restrictions. On top of that, agricultural water users pay a much lower price than residential users. In other words, California’s farmers are being heavily subsidized.