Chu warns of warming's effects on Calif.

California's farms and vineyards could vanish by the end of the century and its major cities could be threatened if Americans do not act now to deal with global warming, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said yesterday in his first interview since taking office last month.

Chu offered some of the starkest comments yet on how seriously President Barack Obama's Cabinet views climate change, along with a detailed assessment of the administration's plans to combat it that includes public education efforts, billions of dollars for alternative energy research and infrastructure, a national standard for electricity from renewable sources and cap-and-trade legislation.

Chu warned of water shortages plaguing the West and Upper Midwest and especially bleak consequences for California, the nation's leading agricultural producer. Up to 90 percent of the Sierra snowpack could disappear, all but eliminating a natural storage system for water that is critical to agriculture.

Global warming skeptics were not convinced by Chu's warnings. "I am hopeful Secretary Chu will take note of the real-world data, new studies and the growing chorus of international scientists that question his climate claims," said Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. "Computer model predictions of the year 2100 are simply not evidence of a looming climate catastrophe" (Jim Tankersley, Los Angeles Times, Feb. 4). -- TL