Teenagers Emerge as a Force in Climate Protests Across Europe — The New York Times #ActOnClimate

Youth activists rally for climate justice in front of the US Capitol in Washington,DC. Across Australia last week, children skipped school as part of the School Strike 4 Climate protests . Image: Lorie Shaull,CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

From The New York Times (Milan Schreuer, Elian Peltier and Christopher F. Schuetze):

Tens of thousands of children skipped school in Belgium on Thursday to join demonstrations for action against climate change, part of a broader environmental protest movement across Europe that has gathered force over the past several weeks.

In Germany, France, Sweden, Switzerland and elsewhere, activists have come together on social media to gather in large numbers and without much apparent preparation, the protests taking a different shape in each country.

In Germany, students have protested on Fridays, communicating mainly through the messaging app WhatsApp; in Belgium, they organize on Facebook and have skipped school by the thousands on four consecutive Thursdays.

Last Sunday, climate protests in Brussels swelled to an estimated 100,000 people of all ages. That same day, an estimated 80,000 took part in cities across France — more than turned out for the “Yellow Vest” protests the day before.

Greta Thunberg via Twitter

The climate movement has no obvious leaders or structure, but a 16-year-old Swede, Greta Thunberg, has drawn worldwide attention and inspired many of the protesters. She has called for school strikes to raise awareness of global warming, scolded world political and economic leaders at this month’s gathering in Davos, Switzerland, and even has her own TED Talk.

Most older people do not feel the urgency young people do about global warming, said Axelle Kiambi, 17, who joined a demonstration in Brussels on Thursday with her sisters, Pauline, 16, and Elisa, 19.

“To us, it is so self-evident that we can’t keep on going in this direction,” said Axelle, raising her voice above the drumming, whistling and shouting of her fellow protesters.

“We come here with the right intentions, to protest in peace and to raise awareness about climate change, because we want to be on the right side of history,” Elisa Kiambi said. “It is time for the government to act.”

After meeting this week with a delegation of climate activists, Belgium’s prime minister, Charles Michel, said he was prepared to act, but not at any cost.

Being allowed to move water off the reservation will greatly expand the market for water in #Arizona — Circle of Blue #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Many Indian reservations are located in or near contentious river basins where demand for water outstrips supply. Map courtesy of the Bureau of Reclamation.

From Circle of Blue (Brett Walton):

Having gained an endorsement from its members, a tribe with one of the largest and most secure claims to water in the Colorado River basin will seek approval from Congress to lease water for use off of its riverside reservation.

The Colorado River Indian Tribes, or CRIT, have lands that stretch along 56 miles of the lower Colorado River. Eighty-five percent of the reservation is in Arizona, with the remainder in California. The tribe’s right to divert nearly 720,000 acre-feet from the river is more than twice the water that is allocated to the state of Nevada.

By law, that water is to be used on the reservation. But if CRIT convinces Congress to allow off-reservation leasing, the change would free up a large volume of water that would be highly desirable for cities and industries in Arizona’s fast-growing Sun Corridor, spanning Phoenix and Tucson, where four out of five state residents live.

CRIT members signaled their approval on January 19, with 63 percent voting in favor of pursuing legal changes that would allow leasing. The vote was prompted by an attempt to recall all nine tribal council members last spring over some residents’ objections to leasing.

“This referendum was a successful effort of our people to understand the value and importance of our natural resources,” Dennis Patch, CRIT chairman, said in a statement. “Our members have shown they understand that it is time to make our water work for all of us. With this responsibility in mind, our Council will continue to work on ways to protect and maximize full economic benefits for our people.”

CRIT has said that it could make as much as 150,000 acre-feet available for off-reservation use in the next decades. The tribe’s administration referred questions about the leasing vote to the attorney general, who did not return repeated phone calls from Circle of Blue…

Robert Glennon, a University of Arizona law professor who focuses on water policy, called CRIT “an enormously powerful player” in those negotiations.

“The tribe is absolutely critical to the willingness of the parties in Arizona to go forward with the drought plan,” Glennon told Circle of Blue. “Critical because of their willingness to put such a large amount of water on the table to prop up Lake Mead or to potentially lease water to cities.”

CRIT pledged to fallow farmland and leave 50,000 acre-feet per year in Lake Mead for three years, starting in 2020. For its effort, the tribe will be paid $38 million dollars.

CRIT’s water is desirable because the rights are among the most senior in the state, meaning they would be fulfilled before other users if all claims to the river cannot be delivered. The flow of the Colorado River is declining and the addition of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere is causing the basin to become drier.

The relative security of senior water rights is a lure for cities, which value reliable water. Preserving that seniority is essential for any lease deal, said Mike Pearce, an attorney with Maguire, Pearce, and Storey, a water law firm in Phoenix.

“It’s an attractive marketing point and all effort would be made to protect [the status of the senior rights] if the water were to be leased,” Pearce told Circle of Blue.

Tribes, in general, are powerful players in the Colorado River basin, holding approximately 20 percent of the water rights, some 2.9 million acre-feet. In interior Arizona and in other states they have negotiated lease deals that secure long-term water availability for cities while bringing in revenue for the tribe.

CRIT hopes to be next to do so. Larry MacDonnell, a water law professor at the University of Colorado, told Circle of Blue that CRIT’s banking of water in Lake Mead is a “potentially helpful precedent” that acknowledges the tribe’s ability to provide water for use off of the reservation.

Since 2016, CRIT has participated in a small-scale water banking project, in which the tribe fallowed nearly 1,600 acres and left the conserved water, roughly 8,500 acre-feet, in Lake Mead.

#Snowpack news: January accumulation was good news for much of the #West

Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of snowpack data from the NRCS.

And, here’s the Westwide Basin-Filled map for February 4, 2019 from NRCS.

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map February 4, 2019 via the NRCS.

Beyond #Drought: 7 States Rebalance Their #ColoradoRiver Use as #GlobalWarming Dries the Region — Inside Climate News #COriver #aridification #DCP

From Inside Climate News (Bob Berwyn):

As major reservoirs shrink with the changing climate, seven states seek a sustainable future for the critical regional water source.

The Colorado River watershed may be reaching a climate tipping point, drying under the influence of global warming to the point that states and tribes in the basin can no longer put off a day of reckoning about the water allocations that have been their lifeblood for the past century.

On Thursday night, Arizona joined other states that share the river basin in agreeing to voluntary water conservation plans. Its legislature approved a plan that helps balance the state’s competing water rights with of those of California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, along with Native American tribes and Mexico. The states faced a Jan. 31 deadline for completing interstate contingency plans on water rights; without them, federal officials could order mandatory cuts later this year. Only a California water district had yet to agree.

U.S. Bureau of Land Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman said Friday that with details in the complex web of agreements still being finalized in California and Arizona, her office would start the federal review process but halt it if all states had formal agreements in place by March 4.

A crisis point in the region has been approaching for years. When the regional water arrangements were first devised in 1922, assumptions about the river’s bounty were way off because they were based on data from wet years. Even when the mistake was recognized decades later, managers continued to permit new withdrawals.

And as dry heat has enwrapped the Southwest, the great river’s flow has been going down while cities and farms slurp up ever more water. The gap between supply and demand can no longer be papered over by shunting billions of gallons of the river’s waters back and forth among reservoirs in what has been one of the nation’s most significant attempts to adapt to climate change.

To the contrary, recent scientific research shows that the Colorado’s flow is very likely to drop even more in the years ahead.

Since 2000, temperatures have persistently run well above average. The heat sucks water out of the ground, as do thirsty plants. And the high country snowpack has dwindled, too.

From 1916 to 2014, flows in the Colorado dropped 16.5 percent, even though total precipitation in the upper basin increased slightly during that period, said Jonathan Overpeck, a climate researcher at the University of Michigan, who has written several studies showing the lasting impacts of warming.

In a recent study, Brad Udall and other researchers found that rising temperatures and changing precipitation patterns reduced Colorado River flows between 2000 and 2014 by 19 percent compared to the 1906–1999 average.

“This drought is not going to end until we stop global warming,” Overpeck said. “It’s not just precipitation, it’s temperatures. We need to understand how what’s happening on the land and to plants affects flows. It would be crazy to bet on increased precipitation.”

What’s Reducing the Basin’s Runoff?

If recent research shows the fingerprints of global warming all across the basin, advanced modeling helps explain why.

A 2018 study used hydrology models to tease out what was causing the reduced runoff. It blamed a little more than half of the decline on unprecedented regional warming, which melted the snowpack and increased water use by plants. The rest was due to lower snowfall in four key pockets of Colorado where most of the water originates.

Model simulations run by Keith Musselman of the University of Colorado for a 2017 study indicated that some Western mountains could be expected to lose 10 percent of their mountain snowpack for every 1 degree Celsius of warming. (The models simulated flows in the Southern Sierra Nevada.)

A third application of advanced models across six mountainous regions of the West saw global warming driving the snowline — the altitude where snow falls above, but rain below — significantly higher up the slopes. Rain runs off immediately, while snow is stored until spring or summer.

The results “overwhelmingly indicate” the vulnerability of snowpack to a warmer climate,” wrote the authors, from the University of Utah.

More Warming and Drying Ahead

Alarmingly, climate scientists expect another 2.5 to 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit of warming in the region by 2070 even if global greenhouse gas emissions are substantially reduced.

By mid-century, flows could drop another 20 percent, and there is a significant risk of long droughts in the coming century that will cut river flows even if there is an increase in precipitation. Some climate models do suggest that precipitation may increase — warmer air holds more water — but there is a lot of uncertainty around the projections.

The term “drought” may not be useful anymore because it implies a short-term condition with an end in sight, said Udall, who works for the Colorado River Research Group. He calls it aridification instead, and says the negotiating over sharing the water is a dry run for the future of water use in the Southwest under climate change.

Ominously, some studies have already suggested the region is at the beginning of a megadrought, based in part on reliable projections that global warming will drive an expansion of subtropical dry areas, which means the deserts of the Southwest could encroach on what are now the water producing-areas of the Colorado River Basin, he added.

The lower end of the river basin, in Southern California and Southern Arizona, is already one of the hottest parts of the country. The 2018 National Climate Assessment shows places like Phoenix and Las Vegas will have more frequent heat waves with extreme life-threatening temperatures in the decades ahead. Those extremes will also affect agriculture in the lower basin, but these types of impacts haven’t even been considered in the current Colorado River talks, Udall said.

State Contingency Plans

The Drought Contingency Plans are designed to keep Lake Mead’s water level above a threshold that would trigger disruptive mandatory cutbacks in water use. Upper Basin states have agreed to keep enough water flowing to the desert lowlands. And the lower basin states, now including Arizona, have agreed to divert less for farms and cities in order to bolster Lake Mead.

The Southwest is going to have to live with less water, said Doug Kenney, director of the Western Water Policy Program at the University of Colorado, Boulder. “We can do it with people kicking and screaming, or we can try to do it in a way that’s fair to everybody.”

The process still has a long way to go, but Gary Wockner, director of the conservation advocacy group Save the Colorado, said getting past the Jan. 31 deadline was a small sign that water managers recognize the elephant in the room.

It acknowledges that the agencies involved know that the collapse of the Colorado River management system is impending. Now the collapse is happening faster than they thought it would. But because of global warming time is running out. Incrementalism not adequate any longer. We have a global climate emergency, everyone needs to first and foremost approach every issue based on that.”

Water engineers, planners and scientists understand how global warming threatens water supplies and are generally averse to risk, Overpeck said. That’s not always the case in politics.

“The polarization that exists on climate policy in the U.S. has prevented a lot of conservative politicians from doing something,” he said. “And the decisions that are being made now, or the lack of decisions being made now, are going to condemn the Colorado to additional flow reductions.”

Overpeck, who recently moved from Arizona to Michigan, said global warming was part of his family’s decision to leave. Among other things, they were worried about the value of their property in the coming years.

“If we don’t deal with climate change, the Southwest will become a place of exodus. It was getting depressing to see politicians writing off the future of the Southwest,” he said.