Click here to access the report. Here’s the abstract:
The observed trend in Earth’s energy imbalance (TEEI), a measure of the acceleration of heat uptake by the planet, is a fundamental indicator of perturbations to climate. Satellite observations (2001–2020) reveal a significant positive globally-averaged TEEI of 0.38 ± 0.24 Wm−2decade−1, but the contributing drivers have yet to be understood. Using climate model simulations, we show that it is exceptionally unlikely (<1% probability) that this trend can be explained by internal variability. Instead, TEEI is achieved only upon accounting for the increase in anthropogenic radiative forcing and the associated climate response. TEEI is driven by a large decrease in reflected solar radiation and a small increase in emitted infrared radiation. This is because recent changes in forcing and feedbacks are additive in the solar spectrum, while being nearly offset by each other in the infrared. We conclude that the satellite record provides clear evidence of a human-influenced climate system.
From The American Farm Bureau (Stefanie Smallhouse):
My husband and I took over operating the family ranch in 2000 after the sudden passing of his father; I remember it was an especially dry year. In the desert that is not much in the way of news, but more of a tendency. Even so, we were forced to liquidate two-thirds of our cattle herd because we did not have the necessary infrastructure to manage what became a longer-term situation.
We now know that what started in 2000 and continues today is considered a megadrought with no end in sight, one of the driest periods in the Colorado River Basin in 1,200 years according to tree-ring data. Feeding hay, hauling water and a poor calf crop combined with low prices will put a rancher out of business quickly in the arid Southwest. A few dry years sprinkled within a decade are expected and recoverable, but 20-plus years of well below-average precipitation creates long-term consequences that accumulate over time and exacerbate existing resource concerns.
Just two examples: Our overgrown forests are tinderboxes, and our water projects are aging and inadequate.
According to the National Interagency Fire Center, the number of acres burned in 12 western states has more than doubled from 4.2 million acres in 2002 to 9.4 million acres in 2020. A diminished timber industry, a litigious environment and a drier climate have created the perfect scenario for catastrophic fires.
The Colorado River system, which was allocated to seven Western states a century ago, provides drinking water to more than 40 million people and irrigates 5.5 million acres of farmland. Next month, the Bureau of Reclamation will release its 24-Month Study which is certain to trigger a Tier 1 shortage. This will be the first shortage call on the river in its history of managed allocation, and Arizona farmers, many of whom are growing hay for parched ranchers, will be the first to lose their water.
A similar situation is playing out all over the West. Farm fields across the region are being fallowed to meet in-stream flow requirements for endangered species while tribal settlements have created a complex matrix of legal restrictions that have further tightened water availability during times of shortage. Water infrastructure projects are not only critical for access to water, but they also provide critical energy production. An ongoing effort in Idaho threatens to deconstruct dams along the Lower Snake River and a privately held water project in California is scheduled for disassembly due to environmental-related litigation.
It is encouraging that the Biden administration recently created an Interagency Working Group to address the ongoing drought and its impacts, while the Senate continues work on an infrastructure package. However, it is not only critical that Western water infrastructure is included in this package, but that drought preparedness take a holistic approach. Overly burdensome regulations which inhibit progress, as well as ongoing efforts to undermine our current water projects, should be closely examined. In addition, valuable conservation and risk management programs may need enhancement to better offset prolonged periods of drought, as the way we manage our forests is fundamental in augmenting water supplies.
Despite the ongoing drought, we have managed to build back our herd through long-term planning, risk management and infrastructure investment. Although grit will get you through the dry spells, resilience will ensure a brighter and hopefully wetter future.
Stefanie Smallhouse is president of Arizona Farm Bureau.
The Snake River Water District will hold a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 4, at its office at 0050 Oro Grande Drive in Keystone.
A presentation will be given on the recently completed water system master plan and upcoming rate changes at the meeting.
Based on the master plan, the district will need to invest about $38.5 million over the next 10 years to address aging infrastructure, potential trouble areas of the system, capacity and distribution. Its next step is determining how to fund these upgrades through federal and state grants and loans.
Powered by a $2 million endowment, the Yampa River Fund is building a more resilient waterway.
…folks whose lives are tied to one of the [Colorado River Basin’s] tributaries in northwestern Colorado aren’t standing by idly. In September 2019, more than 20 regional partners from throughout the Yampa River Valley, including recreation-focused businesses, farmers, nonprofits, and municipalities, joined forces to create the Yampa River Fund. Powered by a nearly $4 million endowment, the fund is doing what individual actors cannot: financing environmental restoration projects, agricultural infrastructure improvements, and releases from nearby reservoirs to ensure farmers, recreationists, and wildlife all have enough water to thrive.
None of this will reverse climate change, but the healthier the Yampa is, the better it will be at weathering a hotter, drier world. This understanding is what brought so many diverse—and sometimes seemingly contradictory—interests together. “We focus on creating win-win-win solutions,” says Nancy Smith, Colorado River Program conservation director at the Nature Conservancy, one of the fund’s founding entities. Smith emphasizes that third “win” because consensus is key: “The working group that created the fund took the time to build trust with one another so that everyone in that valley who depends on the river felt like they had a place at the table.”
Using the proceeds from its endowment, the fund has awarded $400,000 in grants over the past two years. Here’s how it breaks down.
Grant Recipient: Moffat County
Moffat County used a grant to bolster the riverbank at Loudy Simpson Park, which was eroding, in part, due to the growing number of people using the steep shoreline to access the river. A new boat ramp built to handle the crowds will limit future erosion (and open six additional miles of river to boaters by creating a new downstream takeout), and an ADA-compliant ramp helps wheelchair users easily access the water.
Grant Recipients: Trout Unlimited and the Yampa Valley Stream Improvement Charitable Trust
The fund has awarded three grants to rehabilitate sections of the Yampa and its tributaries. The work includes improving fish habitat and riparian zones (the border between the water and the land) and stabilizing shorelines to stop the tributaries from carving away at productive farmland.
Grant Recipient: Colorado Water Trust
To combat rising water temperatures and decreasing water levels—both of which harm wildlife, including four species of endangered fish—the fund pays for strategic releases of cold water from nearby reservoirs. The releases also increase water security for local farmers and help keep the river open for recreationists, who pump tourism dollars into the region.
Grant Recipient: The Nature Conservancy
This outlay pays for the permits needed to rebuild the125-year-old Maybell Ditch headgate, which diverts water from the Yampa into an irrigation canal. The new headgate will be more efficient, meaning more water for farmers and wildlife, and safer for boaters, who often avoid this section of river, in part because of the dangerous hydraulics created by the structure’s weir dam. The new, fish-friendly design will also ease passage for endangered species, like the razorback sucker.
Grant Recipient: The city of Craig
Craig received a grant to help pay for a whitewater park to diversify its tourism economy. A new diversion dam will also sustain the city’s water supply and allow fish to move up and down the river to spawn, feed, and escape to deeper water when river levels drop.
Grant Recipient: Yampa Valley Sustainability Council
Volunteers with the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council’s ReTree program have been planting cottonwoods, alders, and willows along the Yampa for more than a decade. In 2020, the council used a grant to procure an irrigation system to increase the saplings’ survival rates, and this year it received another disbursement to cover 2022’s expenses, such as site preparation. One of the main goals is to create more shade to help mitigate rising water temperatures.
Greenway Master Plan
Grant Recipient: The town of Oak Creek
Oak Creek obtained funds to aid the design of a new greenway along a portion of its neglected namesake waterway. Construction will improve access and include rehabbing the creek’s banks, vegetation, and wildlife habitat. A healthy riparian zone can help regulate water levels by soaking up runoff and slowly releasing it into the creek.
Gold Hill has received a state grant to thin out the forest around the town in the hope of slowing if not stopping future fires. But that is a fraction of the cost that the surrounding county says it will take to deal with the impact of global heating.
Boulder county estimates it will cost taxpayers $100m over the next three decades just to adapt transport and drainage systems to the climate crisis, and reduce the risk from wildfires.
The county government says the bill should be paid by those who drove the crisis – the oil companies that spent decades covering up and misrepresenting the warnings from climate scientists. It is suing the US’s largest oil firm, ExxonMobil, and Suncor, a Canadian company with its US headquarters in Colorado, to require that they “use their vast profits to pay their fair share of what it will cost a community to deal with the problem the companies created”.
Boulder county, alongside similar lawsuits by the city of Boulder and San Miguel county in the south-west of the state, accuse the companies of deceptive trade practices and consumer fraud because their own scientists warned them of the dangers of burning of fossil fuels but the firms suppressed evidence of a growing climate crisis. The lawsuits also claim that as the climate emergency escalated, companies funded front groups to question the science in order to keep selling oil.
“It is far more difficult to change it now than it would have been if the companies had been honest about what they knew 30 or 50 years ago,” said Marco Simons, general counsel for Earth Rights International, which is handling the lawsuit for the county. “That is probably the biggest tragedy here. Communities in this country and around the world were essentially robbed of their options.”
Boulder county’s lawsuit contends that annual temperatures in Colorado will rise between 3.5F and 6.5F by 2050 and imperil the state’s economy, including farming and the ski industry.
Extremes of weather are already melting the mountain snowpack, causing increased evaporation and a shortfall in the amount of water flowing down the region’s most important river, the Colorado, which supplies drinking water to the state’s largest cities and irrigation all the way to California and Arizona…
Exxon and Suncor are alarmed at the prospect of the cases being heard by local jurors with first-hand experience of the impact of global heating in Boulder. The companies are pressing to move the trials out of state courts and into a federal system where laws on deceptive marketing and consumer fraud do not apply.
“Their strategy is to say that these cases need to be in federal court because federal jurisdiction applies. Then they will turn around and argue that federal law provides no remedy,” said Simons. “It is all about a route to dismissing these cases.”
The outlines of the oil industry’s defence have emerged in newspaper columns pushing back against any parallels with big tobacco and claiming it is the end user, ordinary Americans, that causes pollution…
Max Boykoff, a professor in the environmental studies department at the University of Colorado Boulder, acknowledged the problem, alongside the popularity of high fuel consumption vehicles. But he said that should not be used by the oil companies to absolve themselves of responsibility for a crisis they have played a leading part in creating.
“These lawsuits are one of the tools to hold both these companies accountable,” he said.