Two-Thirds of Americans Think Government Should Do More on #Climate — Pew Research #ClimateChange #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

A nursery manager plants a whitebark pine at Glacier National Park in Montana in September 2019, part of an effort to restore vegetation following a wildfire. Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images via Pew Research

From Pew Research (Alec Tyson and Brian Kennedy):

A majority of Americans continue to say they see the effects of climate change in their own communities and believe that the federal government falls short in its efforts to reduce the impacts of climate change.

At a time when partisanship colors most views of policy, broad majorities of the public – including more than half of Republicans and overwhelming shares of Democrats – say they would favor a range of initiatives to reduce the impacts of climate change, including large-scale tree planting efforts, tax credits for businesses that capture carbon emissions and tougher fuel efficiency standards for vehicles, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

Public concern over climate change has been growing in recent years, particularly among Democrats, and there are no signs that the COVID-19 pandemic has dampened concern levels. A recent Center analysis finds 60% view climate change as a major threat to the well-being of the United States, as high a share taking this view as in any Pew Research Center survey going back to 2009.

The new national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted April 29 to May 5 among 10,957 U.S. adults using the Center’s online American Trends Panel, finds a majority of U.S. adults want the government to play a larger role in addressing climate change. About two-thirds (65%) of Americans say the federal government is doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change – a view that’s about as widely held today as it was last fall.

And public dissatisfaction with government environmental action is not limited solely to climate: Majorities also continue to say the government is doing too little in other areas, such as protecting air and water quality and wildlife.

Consistent with public concerns over climate and the environment, 79% of Americans say the priority for the country’s energy supply should be developing alternative sources of energy, such as wind and solar; far fewer (20%) give priority to expanding the production of oil, coal and natural gas. To shift consumption patterns toward renewables, a majority of the public (58%) says government regulations will be necessary to encourage businesses and individuals to rely more on renewable energy; fewer (39%) think the private marketplace will ensure this change in habits.

Partisans remain far apart on several overarching questions about climate change. Much larger shares of Democrats and those who lean toward the Democratic Party than Republicans and Republican leaners say human activity is contributing a great deal to climate change (72% vs. 22%), that it is impacting their own local community (83% to 37%) and that the government is doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change (89% to 35%).

Despite these differences, there is bipartisan support for several policy options to reduce the effects of climate change. This is especially true when it comes to proposals put forth earlier this year by Republican members of Congress, such as large scale tree-plantings to help absorb carbon emissions and offering tax credits to businesses that capture carbon emissions.

In order to reduce the effects of global climate change, 90% of Americans favor planting about a trillion trees around the world to absorb carbon emissions in the atmosphere, including comparably large shares of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (92%) and Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (88%). President Donald Trump expressed support for tree planting efforts in February during his State of the Union address.

Similarly, 84% of U.S. adults support providing a business tax credit for carbon capture technology that can store carbon emissions before they enter the atmosphere. Large majorities of Democrats (90%) and Republicans (78%) back this proposal, which House Republicans rolled out earlier this year.

Most Americans also support tougher restrictions on power plant emissions (80%), taxing corporations based on the amount of carbon emissions they produce (73%) and tougher fuel-efficiency standards for automobiles and trucks (71%). Partisan divides are wider on these three policies, with Democrats much more supportive than Republicans. Still, about half or more of Republicans say they would favor each of these policies, including 64% who back tougher emission standards for power plants.

While partisanship remains the predominant dividing line in many views of climate and the environment, there are meaningful differences within party coalitions.

In particular, Republicans and Republican leaners who describe their political views as moderate or liberal (roughly a third of all Republicans and leaners) are much more likely than conservative Republicans to see local impacts of climate change, support policies to address it and say the federal government is doing too little in areas of environmental protection. Further, younger generations and women in the GOP tend to be more critical of government action on the environment than their older and male counterparts. Republican women also are more supportive of polices aimed at reducing the impacts of climate change than GOP men.

Differences among Democrats and Democratic leaners are more modest. Strong majorities of both moderate or conservative and liberal Democrats believe the federal government is doing too little to reduce climate change and support a range of policies to address its effects on the environment. There are not meaningful differences in these views among Democrats by either gender or generation.

Americans see local impacts from climate change, but that view is colored more by politics than place

A majority of Americans (63%) say that climate change is affecting their local community a great deal or some. Fewer (37%) say climate change is impacting their own community not too much or not at all. The share who see at least some local impact from climate change is about the same as it was last fall (62%).

Views of the local impact of climate change are largely similar among Americans who live in different regions of the county. In fact, an identical 64% of those who live in the Northeast, South and West say climate change is affecting their community a great deal or some. Those who live in the Midwest are slightly less likely to say this (58%).

Partisanship is a far larger factor in views of the local impact of climate change. A large majority of Democrats (83%) say climate change is affecting their local community a great deal or some. By contrast, far fewer Republicans (37%) believe climate change is affecting their local community at least some; most Republicans (62%) say climate change is impacting their local community not too much or at all.

Among Republicans and Republican leaners, moderates and liberals (55%) are much more likely than conservatives (27%) to say climate change is impacting their community a great deal or some. Among Democrats and Democratic leaners, large shares of both liberals (86%) and conservative and moderates (81%) see local impacts from climate change.

A more granular analysis of geography shows that Americans who live near a coastline are more likely than those who live further away to say climate change is affecting their local community. This pattern holds within both parties but is particularly evident among Republicans.

Seven-in-ten of those who live less than 25 miles from the coastline say climate change is affecting their local community a great deal or some. By comparison, 57% of those who live 300 miles or more from the coastline say climate change is affecting their local community at least some.

Overall, 45% of Republicans who live less than 25 miles from the coastline say climate change is affecting their local community at least some, compared with a significantly smaller share (31%) of Republicans who live 300 or more miles from the coastline.

Roughly eight-in-ten Democrats, no matter where they live, say climate change is affecting their local community at least some. However, Democrats who live close to the coastline are more likely than Democrats who live farthest away from the ocean to say climate change is affecting their local community a great deal (39% vs. 29%).

When those who see a local impact from climate change are asked about the nature of the impact, those who live near a coastline are far more likely (73%) than those who live farther away (45%) to cite rising sea levels that erode beaches and shorelines as a major impact in their community.

Strong majorities of Americans back policies aimed at reducing the effects of climate change

Majorities of U.S. adults favor each of the five proposals to reduce the effects of climate change included in the survey. The most popular, favored by 90% of Americans, is to plant about a trillion trees to absorb carbon emissions. President Trump announced in this year’s State of the Union that the U.S. would join the World Economic Forum’s One Trillion Trees Initiative.

Widespread public support extends to proposals to provide a tax credit to businesses for development of carbon capture and storage capacity (84%) and tougher restrictions on power plant carbon emissions (80%).

About seven-in-ten also favor taxing corporations based on their carbon emissions (73%) and adopting tougher fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks (71%).

The Trump administration has taken steps over the past year to roll back regulations on carbon emissions in areas such as fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles and power plants emissions.

Support for these policies aligns with how effective the public thinks they would be. A 2018 survey found majorities of Americans believed restrictions on power plant emissions, tax incentives to encourage businesses to reduce carbon emissions and tougher fuel-efficiency standards for cars would all make a difference at reducing climate change.

Democrats are particularly supportive of policy proposals to reduce the effects of global climate change. Roughly 90% of Democrats favor each of these five policy proposals, and differences among Democrats by ideology tend to be modest. For example, 93% of Democrats, including 96% of liberals and 91% of moderates and conservatives, say they support tougher restrictions on power plant carbon emissions. Differences among Democrats across demographic characteristics such as age and gender also are small.

Among Republicans, there are large gaps in support for some of these policies by ideology, as well as differences in views between GOP men and women.

Moderate and liberal Republicans are broadly supportive of these proposals aimed at reducing the effects of climate change. Two-thirds or more favor each of the five proposals, including 80% who say they support tougher power plant carbon emissions standards.

Among conservative Republicans, 87% support planting more trees to reduce the effects of climate change and 75% favor a tax credit for businesses to develop carbon capture and storage technology. However, their support is significantly lower for other polices: 55% back tougher restrictions on power plant emissions, while fewer than half favor taxing corporations based on their carbon emissions (46%) or tougher fuel efficiency standards for cars (44%).

Most Republican men and women support tree-planting efforts and offering a tax credit to businesses for carbon capture technology. But GOP women are significantly more likely than men to favor tougher emissions restrictions on power plants, taxing corporations based on their emissions and tougher fuel-efficiency standards for cars.

Political groups continue to differ over role human activity plays in climate change

Most U.S. adults think human activity, such as the burning of fossil fuels, contributes a great deal (49%) or some (32%) to climate change. About two-in-ten (19%) say human activity contributes not too much or not at all to climate change. Views on this question are about the same as they were last fall.

Americans continue to be deeply politically divided over how much human activity contributes to climate change. About seven-in-ten Democrats (72%) say human activity contributes a great deal to climate change, compared with roughly two-in-ten Republicans (22%), a difference of 50 percentage points.

The difference is even wider among those at the ends of the ideological spectrum. A large majority of liberal Democrats (85%) say human activity contributes a great deal to climate change. Only 14% of conservative Republicans say the same – 45% of this group says human activity contributes not too much or not at all to climate change.

Views about the role of human activity in climate change also vary by education among Democrats, but not among Republicans. Democrats who have graduated from college are more likely to say human activity contributes a great deal to climate change than Democrats without a college degree. For example, 86% of Democrats with a postgraduate degree say human activity contributes a great deal to climate change, compared with a smaller majority (58%) of Democrats with no college experience. Among Republicans, comparably small shares across level of education see human activity as contributing a great deal to climate change.

Previous Pew Research Center analyses have found a similar dynamic in views of climate change by level of science knowledge, based on an 11-item index. Among Democrats, those with higher levels of science knowledge are more likely to say human activity influences climate change a great deal than those with lower levels of science knowledge. By contrast, there is no such relationship among Republicans.

There also are significant differences in these views among Democrats by race and ethnicity. Overall, 80% of white Democrats and 70% of Hispanic Democrats say human activity contributes a great deal to climate change. By contrast, black Democrats are much less likely to take this view: 49% believe human activity contributes a great deal to climate change.

Majorities of both Democrats and Republicans prioritize alternative energy over fossil fuel sources

Reducing reliance on carbon-based fuels is viewed by climate advocates as a critical step to preventing the worst impacts of climate change. The survey finds a broad majority of Americans (79%) say the more important priority for the country is to develop alternative sources, such as wind and solar; far fewer (20%) say the more important energy priority is to expand the production of oil, coal and natural gas. Views on this question are about the same as they were in October 2019, the first time the measure was asked on Pew Research Center’s online American Trends Panel.

An overwhelming majority of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (91%) say that developing alternative sources should be the nation’s energy priority. A smaller majority of Republicans and Republican leaners (65%) also takes this view.

Among moderate and liberal Republicans, a large share (81%) say developing alternative sources should be the nation’s energy priority. The views of moderate and liberal Republicans are relatively close to those of Democrats: 88% of moderate and conservative Democrats and a near-unanimous 97% of liberal Democrats say the more important energy priority is developing alternative sources. By contrast, conservative Republicans are much more divided in their views: A narrow majority (54%) gives greater priority to developing alternative energy sources, while 45% say the priority should be expanding the production of oil, coal and natural gas.

Partisans hold opposing views on this question: 77% of Democrats, including those who lean to the Democratic Party, believe that government regulations are necessary to shift the country toward reliance on renewable energy, while 61% of Republicans and Republican leaners say the private marketplace will be enough.

Views on this question, and opinion dynamics among partisans, are comparable to what they were when the question was last asked in 2018.

Americans’ overall preference to prioritize alternative energy is reflected in views of specific energy source development.

Large shares say they would favor developing more solar panel farms (90%) and more wind turbine farms (83%).

There is far less support for expanding fossil fuel energy sources. Majorities oppose expanding coal mining (65%), hydraulic fracturing (60%) and offshore oil and gas drilling (58%).

A narrow majority of the public (55%) opposes more nuclear power plants in the country, while 43% are in favor. Larger shares of women than men oppose expanding nuclear power, a pattern that’s seen among both Republicans and Democrats and is consistent with views about nuclear power in past Center surveys.

Public views on which energy sources the country should expand have been stable in recent years, and opinions are very similar to those measured in 2018 and 2019 surveys.

There is bipartisan support for expanding solar and wind power, though somewhat smaller majorities of conservative Republicans back these two policies.

By contrast, Republicans – especially conservative Republicans – are more supportive than Democrats of expanding fossil fuel energy sources and nuclear power.

Majorities of conservative Republicans favor expanding offshore drilling (72%), hydraulic fracturing (65%) and coal mining (63%). By contrast, about half or fewer of moderate and liberal Republicans favor expanding these forms of energy development. Democrats broadly oppose these methods, and opposition is particularly widespread among liberal Democrats.

Differences in views of energy development by partisanship are about the same as they have been in recent years. See Appendix for details.

Consistent with past Pew Research Center surveys, younger Republicans give more priority to alternative energy development – and are less supportive of expanding fossil fuel sources – than older Republicans.

Overall, 79% of Millennial and Gen Z Republicans prioritize the development of alternative energy sources, compared with 66% of Gen X Republicans and 55% of Republicans who are Baby Boomers or older. While Republicans generally are skeptical about the need for government to encourage public reliance on renewable sources, about half 0f Millennial and Gen Z Republicans (48%) think government regulations are necessary; smaller shares of older Republicans say this.

Millennial and younger Republicans are less supportive of expanding the use of offshore oil and gas drilling, coal mining or hydraulic fracturing than Baby Boomer and older Republicans. There’s a similar, but smaller, generational dynamic among Republicans in views of expanding nuclear power.

Among Republicans, there is broad support across generations for expanding solar and wind farms, though support is somewhat higher among Millennial and Gen Z than older Republicans. (At this point, Gen Z adults hold views on a range of issues – including the role of government, diversity and climate and energy – that are similar to those of Millennials.)

Majorities of U.S. adults say federal government is not doing enough on the environment

Majorities of Americans continue to say the federal government is doing too little to protect key aspects of the environment. About two-thirds of Americans say the federal government is doing too little to protect water quality of rivers, lakes and streams (67%), protect air quality (65%) and reduce the effects of climate change (65%). About six-in-ten think the federal government is doing too little to protect animals and their habitats (62%), and a slightly smaller majority say the federal government is doing too little to protect open lands in national parks (54%).

These findings come amid a changing federal regulatory landscape. The Trump administration is reversing or seeking to change more than 100 rules and regulations related to carbon dioxide emissions, clean air, water or toxic chemicals.

Public views on how much the federal government is doing to protect key aspects of the environment are virtually unchanged in the last two years. In Pew Research Center surveys in both 2018 and 2019, about two-thirds of Americans said the federal government was doing too little to protect air or water quality or reduce the effects of climate change.

Over the past several years, Americans have become significantly more likely to say protecting the environment and addressing climate change should be top priorities for the president and Congress, according to a 2020 Pew Research Center survey.

Democrats remain far more likely than Republicans to say the government is doing too little to address aspects of the environment. For instance, about nine-in-ten liberal Democrats say the federal government is doing too little to protect air quality (93%) or water quality (91%). By comparison, among conservative Republicans, just 36% say the federal government is doing too little to protect water quality and only 28% say this about air quality. Majorities of conservative Republicans say the federal government is doing the right amount in these areas.

Moderate and liberal Republicans are more critical of government action on the environment than conservative Republicans. Narrow majorities say the government is doing too little to protect water and air quality, wildlife and their habit and to reduce the effects of climate change. Ideological gaps among Democrats are more modest than among Republicans. See Appendix for details.

Among Republicans, women and younger adults are more likely to say the government is doing too little to address aspects of the environment than men and older adults in the GOP.

About half of Republican women (51%) say the government is doing too little to protect water quality, compared with 39% of Republican men. There’s a similar gap in views that government is doing too little to protect air quality (47% to 32%), and Republican women also are significantly more likely than men to say the government is doing too little in the three other environmental areas included in the survey.

Millennial and younger Republicans are at least 10 points more likely than Baby Boomer and older Republicans to say the federal government is doing too little in each of the five areas measured in the survey. For example, 53% of Millennial and younger Republicans say the federal government is doing too little to protect air quality, compared with just 30% of Baby Boomer and older Republicans.

Among Democrats, there are hardly any gaps in views on these questions by generation or gender. (See appendix for more details).

Remarkable Drop in #ColoradoRiver Water Use a Sign of #Climate Adaptation — Circle of Blue #COriver #aridification

From Circle of Blue (Brett Walton):

Use of Colorado River water in the three states of the river’s lower basin fell to a 33-year low in 2019, amid growing awareness of the precarity of the region’s water supply in a drying and warming climate.

Arizona, California, and Nevada combined to consume just over 6.5 million acre-feet last year, according to an annual audit from the Bureau of Reclamation, the federal agency that oversees the lower basin. That is about 1 million acre-feet less than the three states are entitled to use under a legal compact that divides the Colorado River’s waters.

The last time water consumption from the river was that low was in 1986, the year after an enormous canal in Arizona opened that allowed the state to lay claim to its full Colorado River entitlement.

States have grappled in the last two decades with declining water levels in the basin’s main reservoirs — Mead and Powell — while reckoning with clear scientific evidence that climate change is already constricting the iconic river and will do further damage as temperatures rise.

For water managers, the steady drop in water consumption in recent years is a signal that conservation efforts are working and that they are not helpless in the face of daunting environmental changes.

“It’s quite a turnaround from where we were a decade ago and really, I think, optimistic for dealing with chronic shortages on the river in the future, knowing that we can turn the dial back and reduce demand significantly, all three states combined,” said Bill Hasencamp, the manager of Colorado River resources for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, a regional wholesaler and one of the river’s largest users.

Observers of the basin’s intricate politics are also impressed with the trend lines for a watershed that irrigates about 5 million acres of farmland and provides 40 million people in two countries and 29 tribal nations with a portion of their water.

“It is an incredibly important demonstration of the fact that we can use less water in this incredibly important water-use region,” John Fleck told Circle of Blue. Fleck is the director of the University of New Mexico water resources program.

Projections for 2020 indicate that conservation will continue, though not quite at last year’s pace. Halfway through the year, the Bureau of Reclamation forecasts water consumption to be roughly 6.8 million acre-feet. An acre-foot is the amount of water that will flood an acre of land to a depth of one foot, or 325,851 gallons.

“I have to give them credit,” Jennifer Gimbel, a senior water policy scholar at Colorado State University, told Circle of Blue about the lower basin states. “They’re working hard to get these numbers.”

Raising Lake Mead

Just five years ago, in 2015, the three states were making use of their entire 7.5-million-acre-foot allotment. By statute and tradition, the basin is divided into a lower basin, where use is higher, and an upper basin, which includes Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. The basins have different water allocation systems and rules governing its use.

In the lower basin, Arizona’s annual allocation is 2.8 million acre-feet, but last year it used just 2.5 million. Nevada used 233,000 of its 300,000 acre-feet. The big savings were in California, which used only 3.8 million of its 4.4 million acre-feet. California hasn’t used that little water from the Colorado since the 1950s, Fleck said.

The drop in California last year is due in large part to Metropolitan Water District, which consumed only 537,000 acre-feet. Five years ago, the district’s tally was around 1 million acre-feet per year. Urban conservation and development of local water sources have played a large role in the decline, but the district’s Colorado River water use is also influenced by snow levels in the Sierra Nevada mountains. When more water is available to be imported from the northern part of the state, as it was last year, the district leans less heavily on the Colorado River.

Graphic credit: Circle of Blue via

Reclamation’s annual audit measures the amount of water consumed by humans, plants, and animals in the lower basin. Consumptive use equals total withdrawals minus any water that is returned to the river system, from irrigation runoff or wastewater treatment plants.

As meticulous as it is, the audit neglects a significant piece of the basin’s water budget: evaporation from reservoirs and system losses, which is water consumed by riverside vegetation and absorbed by the ground. Together, these add up to about 1 million acre-feet per year, Jeremy Dodds, water accounting and verification group manager for Reclamation, told Circle of Blue.

This factor is part of the lower basin’s “structural deficit,” which means that total demand in the lower basin — use by Arizona, California, and Nevada, plus evaporation and required deliveries to Mexico — exceeds the amount of water that flows into Lake Mead, the lower basin’s supply source.

Gimbel, who was the principal deputy assistant secretary for water and science for the U.S. Department of Interior from 2014 to 2016, said that despite the conservation efforts reflected in the audit, the lower basin still has much work to do. “They’re closing the deficit, but they’re not there yet,” she said.

The goal of the lower basin’s conservation is to keep Lake Mead from a precipitous decline into “dead pool” territory, where the reservoir is too low to send water downstream. The dead-pool threshold is at elevation 895 feet. Not using 1 million acre-feet last year most certainly helped the reservoir. Dodds said that at the current elevation of 1,089 feet, each block of 85,000 acre-feet equals 1 foot of elevation. So last year’s conservation added 12 feet to Mead, compared to a scenario in which the three states use their full entitlement.

The conservation tool box that the states have employed has a range of instruments. Cities have provided incentives to remove grass lawns and replace inefficient toilets, showerheads, and washing machines. In Imperial Irrigation District, farmers have lined earthen canals with concrete to prevent seepage and they have agreed to fallow land to save water. Those measures, in both town and country, have helped to reduce demand. Supplies, on the other hand, have been bolstered by more investment in recycling and reuse, groundwater treatment, and desalination. As a whole, the seven states in the watershed came together in 2019 to modify rules for mandatory water-use restrictions that kick in as Lake Mead drops.

The decline in Colorado River water consumption mirrors regional and national trends. In Metropolitan Water District’s service area in Southern California, water use per person fell from about 181 gallons per person per day in the mid-1990s to 131 gallons in 2018, a drop of 27 percent. Colorado River consumption on the Colorado River Indian Tribes reservation, in Arizona, is down about 20 percent since 2016.

According to Tom Ley, a water consultant to the tribes, the decline is due to changes in farming practices and participation in a land fallowing program that will see 10,000 acres taken out of production in the next three years. The tribes’ decrease in consumptive water use “may look even more dramatic once the 2020 report comes out,” Ley told Circle of Blue.

All of these actions amount to a shift in the perception of what’s possible, Fleck said.

“It shows that the expectation that a growing population and a robust agricultural economy require more water is wrong,” explained Fleck, who is optimistic about the basin’s capacity to wield the tools of conservation effectively. Environmental doom is not the inevitable outcome, he says. “We’re seeing success in the transition away from the tragedy narrative,” he added.

Still, there are minefields to navigate. There are dozens of proposals in the upper basin states to withdraw more water from the river, which, if they were built, would further stress supplies. Some of the water conserved in Lake Mead is stored as a credit that participating agencies can theoretically draw upon in the future. How agencies handle those withdrawals, especially if large requests are made as lake levels plummet, is an uncertainty. On top of that, a warming climate will suck more moisture from the basin, even before rain and snow reach the river.

A hot, dry spring this year in the upper basin is evidence of what aridity can do. Snowpack in the basin’s headwaters was roughly average on April 1 and runoff into Lake Powell, a key water supply indicator, was expected to be 78 percent of normal. But then dry conditions arrived in April and May. Combined with dehydrated soils, which took their share of water, the runoff forecast by June 1 had diminished to just 57 percent of normal.

Those climate signals are the counterbalance to the conservation success so far. Water managers, now wary, know the risk.

“Just hopefully we don’t get a string of dry years coming back,” Hasencamp said.

#LakePowell Reached Capacity 40 Years Ago. But What Do The Coming Decades Hold In Store? — KQER #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Lake Powell. Photo credit: The National Park Service

From KUER (Lexi Perry):

The water has made development possible and is used for farms, homes and businesses. Meanwhile, recreation has risen to over 4 million annual visitors in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, with tourists bringing in over $420 million to local communities.

But climate scientists studying the Colorado River find the lake’s water source is quickly declining…

According to Brad Udall, a water and climate researcher at Colorado State University, the lake is crucial for honoring the commitments laid out in that Colorado River Compact.

“Lake Powell is what the upper basin considers its bank account for meeting required deliveries to the three lower basin states. So, it’s essential to the management of the river,” Udall said.

When Lake Powell reached capacity on June 22, 1980, it was a wetter period of time for the region. Today, the lake is just above half full, and a large part of that is because of climate change.

“Since the year 2000, the flow of the river is roughly down 20% and about half of that decline is due to higher temperatures,” Udall said.

And as states continue to use the water, lower flows mean there is less to store in Lake Powell and Lake Mead.

Even though extreme dry and wet years have fluctuated, the West is generally getting drier, said John Fleck, the director of water resources at the University of New Mexico.

“We really need to call [what we’re experiencing] aridification — the drying out of the Colorado River Basin because of climate change, we can’t just call it ‘drought’ anymore,” Fleck said. “It appears to be this permanent phenomenon that’s lowering the lake levels. You should not expect it to return to high lake levels over long periods of time. That’s just not something we can expect to happen.”

While the river flow has declined, the demand for water has increased with regional growth. Upper and lower basin states are making drought contingency plans to keep Lake Powell and Lake Mead from reaching critically low levels.

Udall said states will also have to rethink those original water allocations from the 1920s.

“It’s hard to balance the equities of trying to respect these agreements that people have planned on versus changing circumstances that make these agreements totally inappropriate for right now. And I don’t know what the answer is but something’s gotta give.”


Lexi Peery is a Report for America corps member who reports from KUER’s Southwest Bureau in St. George. Follow Lexi on Twitter @LexiFP

Crop pathogens are more adaptable than previously thought — The Conversation

Bananas in Java, Indonesia, infected by the fungal pathogen Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense, which causes Fusarium Wilt.
Clare Thatcher, CC BY-ND

Antonis Rokas, Vanderbilt University

The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.

The big idea

Many of the pathogens threatening the world’s major crops and food security are either fungi or fungus-like organisms known as oomycetes. In a recent study published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers found that these microorganisms have the ability to rapidly adapt to environmental conditions and to the plant hosts they infect. This finding adds to growing concerns around these types of pathogens, which could become harder to control in both agriculture and forestry.

Potato infected with the oomycete Phytophthora infestans. This oomycete was the cause of the Irish potato famine that led to the starvation and death of more than 1 million people in the 19th century. Phytophthora infections cause annual damages that amount to billions of U.S. dollars.

To understand why only certain organisms are pathogens and others are not, ecologists like to think of each organism’s lifestyle or “ecological niche.” An organism’s niche is a space defined by its relationship to other organisms, such as the host organisms it interacts with, and preferred environmental conditions, such as temperature and humidity. For example, the oomycete Phytophthora infestans that causes potato late blight thrives at lower temperatures, around 15 degrees Celsius, whereas Botryosphaeria fungi causing apple “bot rots” prefer temperatures around or above 25°C.

While the ecological niches of many plant and animal pathogens are well understood, this is not the case for microbial pathogens, such as fungi and oomycetes. To begin filling this gap, the new study synthesized and analyzed temperature and host plant range data from hundreds of fungal and oomycete pathogens.

The researchers found that although some pathogens infect just one or a few plant hosts, others infect a broad range. The same was true of temperature; some pathogens can grow in a broad range of temperatures, while others thrive in only a narrow range. Simply put, there’s not one pathogen lifestyle; rather, any lifestyle could be that of a pathogen.

But an even bigger surprise came when the researchers discovered that the two traits, temperature range and plant host range, did not correlate with one another. Thus, crop pathogen lifestyles cannot easily be grouped into general categories, such as generalists that grow in a wide range of temperatures and infect many plant hosts, and specialists, which is the opposite. What’s more, the new study found that both temperature range and plant host range change rapidly during evolution.

Why it matters

Rice infected with the rice blast fungus Magnaporthe grisea. Annually, rice blast destroys a quantity of rice that could feed 60 million people.
Wikipedia, CC BY-SA

Knowledge that crop pathogens exhibit diverse ecological lifestyles and evolve rapidly is decidedly not good news for our crops and global food security. On a planet where the climate is changing, highly adaptable pathogens are likely to be harder to control. In addition, much of the world relies on an outdated system of agriculture that favors monoculture and reliance on fungicides to which pathogens quickly evolve resistance. This combination make for a deadly mix, with new outbreaks of emerging plant diseases on the rise.

What still isn’t known

We still know little about the ecological niches of microbes. Examining host range and temperature, two important traits to the lifestyles of crop pathogens, is but the first step. In the future, researchers will need to examine additional facets of the ecological niches of these pathogens, such as humidity or competition with other organisms, which will be key for understanding why some microbes are pathogens and others are innocuous.

[Like what you’ve read? Want more? Sign up for The Conversation’s daily newsletter.]The Conversation

Antonis Rokas, Cornelius Vanderbilt Chair in Biological Sciences, Professor of Biological Sciences and Biomedical Informatics, and Director of the Vanderbilt Evolutionary Studies Initiative, Vanderbilt University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Major victory for the #GilaRiver, America’s most endangered river of 2019 — @AmericanRivers #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Gila River. Photo credit: Dennis O’Keefe via American Rivers

From American Rivers (Sinjin Eberle):

In a major victory for one of the Southwest’s last major free flowing rivers, the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission voted 7-2 on Friday to end work on the Environmental Impact Statement for the Gila River diversion. The threat of the diversion spurred American Rivers to name the Gila America’s Most Endangered River® of 2019.

“This is a resounding victory for last year’s Most Endangered River and one of New Mexico’s greatest natural treasures. We applaud our partners for their years of work and the Interstate Stream Commission for recognizing the value of the free-flowing Gila River,” said Bob Irvin, President and CEO of American Rivers.

The Gila River Diversion has long been a contentious, wasteful proposal, that would have devastated New Mexico’s last major wild river. Partners including the Gila River Indian Community, Gila Conservation Coalition, Upper Gila Watershed Alliance and Center for Biological Diversity have been vital to the effort to stop the diversion.

Flowing out of the nation’s first Wilderness Area, the Gila River supports outstanding examples of southwestern riparian forest, cold-water fisheries and a remarkable abundance of wildlife. The Gila River is important to Indigenous peoples who have lived in southwestern New Mexico for thousands of years. Many cultural sites are found along the Gila River and throughout the watershed.

Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis advocates early engagement of tribes in the decision-making process. (Source: Water Education Foundation)

“Our people have lived on the banks of the Gila River in Arizona for thousands of years, and we have watched our River dwindle through overuse in the Upper Valley,” said Governor Lewis of the Gila River Indian Community, located in Arizona on the banks of the Gila River. “We have known for decades that our River is in danger, so we were pleased to partner with American Rivers in the fight to protect the River. The action by the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission to end funding for the proposed Gila River diversion is a significant victory in our common fight to protect the Keli Akimel, as we call the River in our language. Hopefully, with this decision, we can put this wasteful proposal behind us for good. Our fight to protect the Gila will never be over, but this is a resounding victory and I want to thank our partner, American Rivers, for all their hard work in helping to bring this about.”

The diversion could have dried up the Gila River, impacting fish and wildlife and the local outdoor recreation and tourism economy. The diversions and infrastructure would have harmed critical habitat for seven threatened or endangered species. Declining groundwater levels caused by the diversion and new groundwater pumping would have threatened the cottonwood-sycamore-willow bosque, some of the last remaining intact riparian forest in the Lower Colorado River Basin.

Now that the diversion proposal is dead, the commission will have the opportunity to re-allocate nearly $70 million to more river-friendly, shovel-ready, local water supply projects benefitting tens of thousands of residents across Southwestern New Mexico, including infrastructure improvements in Deming, Lordsburg, Silver City, and greater Grant County.

Gila River watershed. Graphic credit: Wikimedia

The West has a role in reimagining the U.S. — @HighCountryNews #BlackLivesMatter

From The High Country News [June 23, 2020] (Ruxandra Guidi):

Our notion of ‘American exceptionalism’ has collapsed. What will replace it?

was not yet born in October 1968, when U.S. Olympic athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos won gold and bronze medals, respectively, for the 200-meter dash. As The Star-Spangled Banner played over the loudspeakers inside the Mexico City stadium, the two men bowed their heads, and each raised a black-gloved fist to the sky. They stood shoeless on the podium, wearing black socks to protest Black poverty. Smith wore a black scarf around his neck to represent Black pride.

“If I win, I am an American, not a Black American,” Smith said during a press conference afterwards. “But if I did something bad, then they would say ‘a Negro.’ We are Black, and we are proud of being Black. Black America will understand what we did tonight.”

For their gesture, both Smith and Carlos were thrown off the U.S. Olympic team, but they became instant heroes for many of us around the developing world. Their salute to the Black Power movement amid the ongoing civil rights struggle and the rising death toll of the Vietnam War, their silent protest, spoke to me years later, when I was still a child. I grew up in Venezuela, in a society that liked to define itself as “post-racial,” even though your neighborhood and the color of your skin made you a target for the cops, deprived you of opportunities, increased the chance you’d die young. Today, I’m an adult living in the United States, where the raised Black fist is now omnipresent, even commodified, marking everything from T-shirts to mugs.

“What does it mean?” our daughter, who is 7, asked recently. I showed her the old photo of Smith and Carlos and tried to explain about the Black Panthers, the history of civil rights in this country, about Black Lives Matter and how, eight years ago, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was killed by a stranger as he walked home from a convenience store. I told her how a white police officer killed George Floyd by kneeling on his neck, even as Floyd repeated, “I can’t breathe” and “Mama.”

These are not easy conversations to have with a Latina girl living in Arizona, a land marked by centuries of conquest, land grabs and dispossession.

But I knew that if not today, sometime in the future — and for the rest of her life — my daughter would encounter anti-Blackness and understand how it defies the myth of the Land of the Free. She will come to know that there is no such thing as the American Dream, only a state that continues to disinvest from its own people amid growing inequality. And she will have to learn to navigate anger and despair alongside hope. I say “hope,” because the latest uprisings may yet prove that sustained rebellion can change minds — even change our world. But what will that change bring? If the story of America isn’t one of “liberty and justice for all,” then what is it? And what could it become?

This nation is experiencing a profound moment of unexceptionalism. By late April, almost three months after the first known COVID-19 death was reported in the U.S., the disease had claimed more American lives than two decades of the Vietnam War. As of this writing, more than 119,923 people in the U.S. have died according to available data.

A man raises his fist in solidarity with some 500 individuals who had come together during an early June vigil organized by the NAACP calling for an end to police brutality. Photo credit: Roberto (Bear) Guerra via The High Country News

The Western U.S., where I have lived a good part of my adult life, reflects a stark inequality. In Clark County, Nevada, to give one example, almost one-fifth of those who have died from the disease were Black, even though Black residents make up just a little over one-eighth of the county’s population. In Colorado, Latino residents have been equally hard-hit, making up almost one-third of COVID-19 cases. The five highest rates of infection in the U.S. are found in Western tribal nations, according to a study by the American Indian Studies Center at UCLA.

Such disparities took root in the West generations ago. First, white settlers conjured Manifest Destiny to justify the killing and forced removal of Indigenous peoples and the theft of their lands. Then, a war with Mexico preceded a major land acquisition, setting the stage for another kind of racism, against Hispanics and Latinos. The Great Migration and World War II’s industrialization brought Black Americans into the West, where they continued to face discrimination. Black Westerners are more likely to live in densely populated neighborhoods, in areas marked by redlining and poorly funded schools, with fewer options for healthy food, green space, decent jobs or safety.

Being Black or brown in America means that you’re less likely to be insured, and that quality hospitals will be farther from your home. It means exposure to toxic pollution and environmental hazards, and record unemployment made worse by a rising cost of living. In the West, these inequalities cross urban-rural divides even more than racial divides.

Now, the COVID-19 outbreak has forced a reckoning.

The pandemic not only exposed today’s racial wealth gap, it magnified the contrast between privileged people like myself — middle-class professionals with steady jobs, who could afford to stay home, work remotely and remain healthy — and underpaid workers without child care, insurance or other resources.

But just as this pandemic has revealed a broken system, it has taught us another lesson, too. The first few weeks in self-quarantine at home in Tucson reminded me that our government does not have our back. But our neighbors and friends and food banks and mutual aid groups do: We may have been stuck at home, but we were not alone.

IN THE SPRING OF 1991, the vicious beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles cops gave me my first real glimpse into how racism is lived in America. I was 15 years old, one year into my new life in the U.S., and I remember watching the video on the TV news, thinking that our collective rage over this act of brutality would surely lead to the cops’ conviction. Instead, that display of police violence ended in the acquittal of the officers involved, sparking the 1992 uprising in Los Angeles. It also inspired then-President Bill Clinton’s response: the so-called Community Oriented Policing Services office, or COPS, which put 100,000 new police officers on the streets. Some of the officers hired back then are probably still on duty today, facing off with protesters in LA this June during Black Lives Matter demonstrations.

Perhaps little has changed in the past 30 years. Then again, perhaps change — tangible change — is on the horizon.

The killing of George Floyd in May has sparked a nationwide uprising, calling for an end to police brutality and systemic racial inequities in the United States. Photo credit: Roberto (Bear) Guerra

Seven years ago, three young black women —Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Alicia Garza of California and New York’s Opal Tometi — dreamed up Black Lives Matter.

Within a year of its founding, 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, was killed by a white police officer, who, in an all-too-familiar pattern, wasn’t even charged with a crime. Black Lives Matter was there to “imagine and create a world free of anti-Blackness, where every Black person has the social, economic, and political power to thrive.”

As modern-day abolitionists, Black civil rights protesters today are reiterating decades-old demands that were once deemed unthinkable: They’re calling for the release of low-level offenders from jail, independent investigations of police corruption, and the defunding or dismantling of police departments. But they’re also dreaming beyond the criminal justice system — demanding federal job guarantees, more resources for social workers and educators, rent moratoriums, reparations for not just the descendants of slaves, but displaced Indigenous peoples, and more.

The current moment has reawakened a feeling I remember from long ago. In 1995, as a freshman at Rutgers, a public college in New Jersey considered one of the most racially and culturally diverse in the country, I was part of something that gave me a sense of purpose for a long time afterwards: the campus takeover by Black, Indigenous, Latino, Asian and first-generation immigrant kids like myself to protest the publication of The Bell Curve, a book that made bogus claims about race, including that Black people were inherently less intelligent than whites and Asians. Meanwhile, our university president, Francis Lawrence, echoing the book’s racist pseudo-science, argued that Black students performed poorly on standardized tests because of their “genetic, hereditary background.”

At basketball games and inside classrooms, wherever we could assemble, we called for Lawrence’s resignation. In the end, Lawrence apologized and was spared. Eventually, the protests quieted down. But a new generation of leaders would come out of these protests and find their own voices. I found journalism. The memory of my fellow students staring into the fire as new copies of The Bell Curve burned still gives me chills. It reminds me of the importance of young idealism, of what it’s like to see demands that may at first seem unattainable suddenly come to life. It continues to give me some hope now for some kind of awakening, a remaking of the world, hope for my daughter’s future.

After George Floyd was killed, I joined a live webinar featuring former Black Panther and U.C. Santa Cruz professor Angela Davis. Now in her 70s, Davis was flanked by young activists video-conferencing in from around the country. With her office library behind her, Davis beamed as she spoke to activists at least four decades younger than her, reminding them that the United States has always set Black and brown people up for failure. The tragedy of COVID-19 had simply exposed the raw reality many people have known all along.

Hundreds of people gathered at an NAACP vigil to protest police brutality in in Tucson, Arizona, in early June.
Roberto (Bear) Guerra via The High Country News

“Even when it appeared that no one was listening outside of communities of color, this anti-racist organizing has made a major difference,” Davis told us. “We don’t often have the opportunity to so dramatically witness the results of activist and intellectual work that dramatically changes people’s minds and begins to shift mainstream narratives within a very short period of time.”

We are living through a moment of rebellion and possibility, of long-overdue demands that are finally getting traction beyond so-called communities of color. America’s old foundational myths are being questioned by millennials, Generation Z, and moderate and progressive whites. For the first time in our lives, we are witnessing a Black-led multiracial uprising that’s growing in numbers and impact, not just in large cities, but even in the most obscure rural towns in the West. Here, the mission is urgent. Manifest Destiny and its legacies — conquest and land theft, blind patriotism and old promises — let these wither and die. Let the West instead lead the struggle for reconciliation and reparations for Black, brown and Indigenous peoples. Our new legacy can be one of true justice, civil rights and radical change. Let’s keep it going.

Contributing editor Ruxandra Guidi writes from Tucson, Arizona. Email her at

Governor Polis Activates #Drought Plan and Task Force as Severe Drought Expands Across Southern, Eastern Regions — @CWCB_DNR

Dry streambed. Photo credit: The Colorado Water Conservation Board

Here’s the release from the Colorado Water Conservation Board:

On June 22, Governor Jared Polis requested activation of Colorado’s Drought Task Force and Phase 2 of the State Drought Mitigation and Response Plan as drought conditions deepen, reaching more than 81% of the state, with severe and extreme drought conditions in 33% of the state (40 counties).

Colorado’s Drought Task Force – which includes leadership from the Departments of Agriculture, Natural Resources, Local Affairs, Public Safety, and the Colorado Water Conservation Board – determined the need to activate Phase 2 of the Drought Plan on June 18 after a third of the state reached extreme drought conditions. “Phase 2” indicates officially directing the Drought Task Force to assess initial damages and impacts of drought in areas experiencing severe or extreme drought and to recommend mitigation measures. This Phase also activates the Agricultural Impact Task Force, which will conduct an initial assessment on physical and economic impacts and recommend opportunities for incident mitigation.

Counties impacted by abnormally dry (D0) and moderate (D1) drought will continue to be closely monitored. The 40 counties currently experiencing severe (D2) and extreme (D3) drought include: Alamosa, Archuleta, Baca, Bent, Chaffee, Cheyenne, Conejos, Costilla, Crowley, Custer, Delta, Dolores, Eagle, El Paso, Elbert, Fremont, Garfield, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Huerfano, Kiowa, Kit Carson, La Plata, Las Animas, Lincoln, Mesa, Mineral, Montezuma, Montrose, Otero, Ouray, Pitkin, Prowers, Pueblo, Rio Grande, Saguache, San Miguel, San Juan, Washington, and Yuma.

To stay informed on Colorado drought issues, sign up for the State’s Drought Updates or visit the Colorado Water Conservation Board Drought webpage.

Colorado Drought Monitor June 16, 2020.