#Colorado’s changing climate poses health risks – now and into the future #ActOnClimate #keepitintheground

Click here to go to the Colorado Health Institute website to read their report:

Studies show that climate change and health are linked. Rising temperatures, polluted air and extreme weather, among the most impactful results of climate change, threaten both physical and psychological well-being.10 Children, seniors and people with lung or heart disease are especially at risk.

Coloradans are witnessing climate changes in various forms.

Snowpack is melting sooner and more quickly.11 Erratic weather — snow one day, spring conditions the next — is becoming more common. Wildfires are burning more acreage and igniting with greater frequency. The state’s average temperature has risen by two degrees Fahrenheit in the past 30 years,12 an increase that ranks Colorado as the 20th fastest-warming state since 1970.13

Two degrees may seem like a small increase but this temperature change has happened unusually fast. Historically, such temperature changes took place over thousands of years.14

A great deal of work is being done at the intersection of climate change and health. The American Public Health Association has designated 2017 the year of climate change and health, calling climate change the nation’s greatest public health challenge.15 The United Nations Environment Program says that climate change is one of the biggest threats to worldwide environmental and human health.16

At the state level, Colorado’s voters passed a law in 2004 creating first-in-the-nation renewable energy standards for electricity producers, which has placed Colorado among the leaders in renewable energy.

The state’s 2007 Climate Plan, created by former Gov. Bill Ritter and updated in 2015 by Gov. John Hickenlooper, calls for regulating greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), conserving water and encouraging community-level action. Colorado is one of 33 states and the District of Columbia with a climate change plan.

Four Colorado cities — Aspen, Boulder, Denver and Fort Collins — have adopted local climate action plans.

This brief delves into the health impacts of three climate-change factors relevant to Colorado: rising temperatures, worsening air quality and extreme weather. It identifies Coloradans who will be most impacted by climate change and looks at the policy actions underway and the policy questions on the horizon.

Making the Connection: Climate Change and Health in Colorado

Colorado, as a landlocked state with complex landscapes ranging from mountains to plains, experiences climate-related events differently than other states. Extreme weather events such as blizzards and droughts are more common in Colorado, while hurricanes and flooding impact coastal states such Louisiana and Florida.

The consequences of climate change tend to be interconnected. Rising temperatures are likely to impact Colorado’s most valuable natural resource — water. Snow accounts for 70 percent of the state’s surface water supply.17, 18 As snow melt drains from the mountains earlier in the spring due to higher temperatures, less water is available later in the year to feed forests and meet agricultural and human needs.

Meanwhile, as Colorado’s climate warms, forests dry out. Thirsty forests, in turn, are ripe for wildfires.

Smoke and dust from fires pollute the air. And dirty air is a health hazard, particularly for people with breathing difficulties.

The following sections delve into the three climate change results that are expected to most affect the health of Coloradans, according to a synthesis of the research.

Rising Temperatures

Heat is one of the biggest climate-related public health threats, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).19

Colorado’s average temperature has varied over the past century. Scientists have established a baseline temperature based on a 30-year average. (See Figure 1.) They plotted the annual average temperature relative to that average from 1900 to 2012. The blue bars represent years when the average temperature was below the 30-year baseline. Red bars mark years when the average temperature rose above the baseline.

Colorado’s temperature spiked during the Dust Bowl in the 1930s and again in the 1950s. Temperatures began to be consistently higher than the average beginning in the mid-1990s.

Colorado’s average temperature has increased by two degrees Fahrenheit in the past 30 years. Looking ahead, climate models indicate a warmer future for Colorado. Projections say the state’s average temperature could be five degrees higher by 2050.20, 21 Such increases significantly outpace historical trends.

Currently, average summer temperatures in the Denver metro area are in the low- to mid-80s, but Denver has recorded several summers with 12 or more consecutive days above 90 degrees since 2008.22 Unusually hot temperatures — days above 90 degrees — can potentially harm health.23

It’s possible that 90-plus degrees could become Colorado’s average summer temperature by mid-century, according to the Western Water Assessment Team at CU-Boulder.24

To put that in perspective, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a scientific agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce that studies climate, says that as time goes on Denver will begin to feel more like Pueblo in the summer, where average highs are in the low 90s.25, 26

Health Implications

  • Extreme heat affects cardiovascular, respiratory and nervous systems. (See Figure 2.)

Warmer temperatures also can cause heat stroke and dehydration.

Vulnerable Coloradans

  • Almost six percent of Colorado’s adults have cardiovascular disease, putting them at an increased risk for heat exhaustion and heat stroke. A weakened heart has a harder time pumping blood throughout the body to normalize temperatures.
  • The seven percent of Colorado’s adults with diabetes can have trouble cooling their bodies on hot days, a result of damage to blood vessels and nerves that impact sweat glands. Higher temperatures can also change how a person with diabetes uses insulin, requiring more frequent blood sugar tests and careful dietary choices.
  • The state’s 1.2 million children are especially vulnerable. Children absorb more heat than adults because they have a greater ratio of skin surface to weight.
  • The 711,000 seniors over age 65 are at increased risk because chronic illness and age can hinder the ability to regulate body temperature.

R.I.P. Cecil Andrus: “In Alaska, we have a chance to do it right the first time”

Cecil Andrus. Photo credit Wikimedia Commons.

From the Associated Press via The Los Angeles times:

Former Interior Secretary Cecil V. Andrus, who engineered the conservation of millions of acres of Alaska land during the Carter administration, has died. He was 85. Andrus died late Wednesday of complications from lung cancer, daughter Tracy Andrus said.

A onetime lumberjack, Andrus resigned midway through his second term as Idaho governor in 1977 to become President Jimmy Carter’s secretary of the Interior, serving until Carter’s term ended in 1981. He then was elected governor two more times, becoming the first four-term governor in Idaho history. He was also the last Democrat to hold the office in red-state Idaho.

Carter declared permanent national monuments on 56 million acres in Alaska in 1978. Despite criticism from many Alaskans, Andrus ordered protection of an additional 52 million acres of public lands in the state the same year.

The threat of additional federal protections by executive fiat forced Alaskan lawmakers to compromise on the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, signed by Carter just a month before he left office. The law set aside an area the size of California as national parks, national forests and refuge areas such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

“In the Lower 48, we have to fight to save some single remnant of an area that’s already been ruined,” Andrus later said. “In Alaska, we have a chance to do it right the first time.”

Andrus’ conservation efforts earned him the praise of environmental groups but the rancor of many Alaskans who depended on resources extracted from public lands for their livelihoods. A popular bumper sticker on Alaskan pickup trucks proclaimed, “Lock up Andrus, not Alaska.”

In a 2003 speech, Andrus criticized the much-debated proposal to allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. “It is a place that is so fragile it takes 100 square miles for a grizzly bear to forage,” he said. “It takes 50 years for a tree to grow.”

Historian T.H. Watkins once wrote that only three Interior secretaries — Harold Ickes, Andrus and Stuart Udall — understood the importance of wilderness preservation “to the spiritual and ecological well-being of the nation.”

Caribou on the Colville River. North Slope. Photo credit Wikimedia Commons.

@USDA: Understanding Irrigated Agriculture

Center pivot sprinklers in the Arikaree River basin to irrigate corn. Each sprinkler is supplied by deep wells drilled into the High Plains aquifer. The irrigation of agricultural crops accounts for most (80 percent) of the Nation’s water consumption. That is why U.S. agriculture is central to the challenge of balancing increasing water demands for urban, industrial, and environmental uses.

From USDA’s Amber Waves (Glenn Schaible):

According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, irrigated farms represented just 14 percent of U.S. farms, but contributed about 39 percent of the country’s farm sales—over $152 billion. The 17 Western States (including Nebraska, California, and Texas) together accounted for nearly three-quarters of all irrigated farms that year. Farm sales for Western irrigated farms averaged $513,272 per farm, over four times the average for Western dryland farms.

To better understand irrigation characteristics, such as acreage and water use, USDA conducts the Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey (FRIS) every 5 years. The 2013 FRIS, the most recent survey available, reports data for both irrigation on acres in the open (AIO) as well as horticulture under protection (HUP). Crops irrigated on AIO include corn, wheat, and soybeans as well as vegetables, berries, and nut trees. By comparison, crops irrigated on HUP (such as greenhouses) include floriculture crops, nursery crops, and mushrooms.

In 2013, U.S. farms irrigated about 55.4 million acres. This required the application of more than 88.5 million acre-feet (MAF) of water, equivalent to about 28.8 trillion gallons. The irrigation of AIO accounted for nearly all the water use (98 percent).

Most Irrigated Farms Are Low-Sales Operations, But Large Farms Use Most of the Water

The distribution of irrigated farms and acres and applied water varies significantly across farm size. Most irrigated farms in 2013 were low-sales operations with under $150,000 in annual farm sales: 67 percent of Western irrigated farms and 64 percent of U.S. irrigated farms. These farms are plentiful in number because they are very small—averaging less than 50 irrigated crop acres per farm, compared to 1,200 acres for large-scale irrigated farms.

However, large-scale farms—those with $1 million or more in farm sales—accounted for over half of the irrigated AIO and about 60 percent of applied irrigation water in 2013. Large-scale irrigated farms also accounted for most (about 79 percent) of the value of irrigated farm production. These farms dominate these characteristics largely because their size allows them to spread costs over many more acres. For example, in the West, irrigation pumping costs for large-scale farms generally average about half that for low-sales farms.

The Use of Irrigation Systems in the West Has Changed Over the Years

There are two main types of irrigation systems: gravity and pressurized irrigation. Gravity irrigation uses the force of gravity and field borders or furrows to distribute water across a field. Open ditches or pipe systems along with siphon tubes, ditch gates, pipe valves or orifices deliver the water to the field. Pressurized irrigation, on the other hand, delivers water to the field under pressure in lateral, hand-move, and center-pivot pipe systems with attached sprinklers. It may also use drip/trickle tubes and micro-spray systems with drip emitters or micro-spray nozzles to distribute water.

Comparing data from the 2013 FRIS to previous surveys can reveal trends in how Western farms have used irrigation systems over time. Total irrigated acres and applied water use, for example, remained relatively stable between 1984 and 2013. However, Western farmers have changed how they apply water to farmland. The share of water applied using gravity systems steadily declined from 71 percent in 1984 to 41 percent in 2013. Meanwhile, the share using pressure-sprinkler systems steadily increased from 28 percent in 1984 to 59 percent in 2013.

USDA conservation programs provide financial and technical assistance to encourage the adoption of more efficient onfarm irrigation systems. Efficient irrigation systems can help maintain farm profitability in an era of increasingly limited and more costly water supplies. FRIS data show that Western irrigated agriculture has become more efficient over time. More efficient irrigation (both gravity and pressure-sprinkler systems) accounted for about 37 percent of total irrigated acres in the West in 1994, but increased to nearly half by 2013. More efficient pressure-sprinkler irrigation alone accounted for about 15 percent in 1994, but more than 37 percent in 2013. The share of acres using more efficient gravity systems peaked in the late 1990s, but then declined as farmers increasingly turned to the even more efficient pressure-sprinkler systems.

In general, efficient irrigation increases with farm size. Smaller irrigated farms tend to have more traditional irrigation systems that operate at lower efficiency. Efficient systems require large capital investments that larger farms are better able to afford.
Irrigated Efficiency Varies by Region

FRIS data also reveal that the efficiency of irrigated agriculture varies significantly across U.S. farm production regions. The Southern Plains region, for example, had the highest share (87 percent) of total acres that used efficient irrigation systems in 2013. More efficient pressure-sprinkler systems alone accounted for 80 percent of total irrigated acres for the region. Efficient irrigation has become more important for the Southern Plains because of increasing pumping costs to reach deeper into groundwater aquifers.

In the West, the Mountain region had the lowest share of acres irrigated with efficient systems. This region produces lower-valued crops (like hayland and alfalfa) for which traditional gravity systems remain the most economic choice. In the East, the Delta States region had the highest irrigation efficiency, with more efficient gravity systems accounting for nearly 60 percent of total irrigated acres. The South East region, on the other hand, depends more on the use of more efficient pressure-sprinkler systems, which accounted for about 46 percent of total irrigated acres.

This article is drawn from…Irrigated Agriculture in the United States , by Glenn Schaible, USDA, Economic Research Service, April 2017

Flood irrigation in the Arkansas Valley via Greg Hobbs

Today is Woman’s Equality Day — Take some time to honor women and work for equality

Graphic vie @LeeRoperBatker

Here’s the link to the Women’s Equality Day website.

Staggering volumes of rainfall expected in #TX #ClimateChange #ActOnClimate

Here’s the Red Cross Hurricane Harvey Response Information page.

Here’s a composite video from Corrie Motice showing Harvey developing over 72 hours into the Cat 4 storm that made landfall last night.

Water treatment blast from the past – News on TAP

Kassler plant was the first of its kind west of the Mississippi River.

Source: Water treatment blast from the past – News on TAP