The science everyone needs to know about climate change, in 6 charts — The Conversation

Scientific instruments in space today can monitor hurricane strength, sea level rise, ice sheet loss and much more.
Christina Koch/NASA

Betsy Weatherhead, University of Colorado Boulder

With the United Nations’ climate conference in Scotland turning a spotlight on climate change policies and the impact of global warming, it’s useful to understand what the science shows.

I’m an atmospheric scientist who has worked on global climate science and assessments for most of my career. Here are six things you should know, in charts.

What’s driving climate change

The primary focus of the negotiations is on carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that is released when fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas – are burned, as well as by forest fires, land use changes and natural sources.

The Industrial Revolution of the late 1800s started an enormous increase in the burning of fossil fuels. It powered homes, industries and opened up the planet to travel. That same century, scientists identified carbon dioxide’s potential to increase global temperatures, which at the time was considered a possible benefit to the planet. Systematic measurements started in the mid-1900s and have shown a steady increase in carbon dioxide, with the majority of it directly traceable to the combustion of fossil fuels.

Once in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide tends to stay there for a very long time. A portion of the carbon dioxide released through human activities is taken up by plants, and some is absorbed directly into the ocean, but roughly half of all carbon dioxide emitted by human activities today stays in the atmosphere — and it likely will remain there for hundreds of years, influencing the climate globally.

During the first year of the pandemic in 2020, when fewer people were driving and some industries briefly stopped, carbon dioxide emissions from fuels fell by roughly 6%. But it didn’t stop the rise in the concentration of carbon dioxide because the amount released into the atmosphere by human activities far exceeded what nature could absorb.

If civilization stopped its carbon dioxide-emitting activities today, it would still take many hundreds of years for the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to fall enough naturally to bring the planet’s carbon cycle back into balance because of carbon dioxide’s long life in the atmosphere.

How we know greenhouse gases can change the climate

Multiple lines of scientific evidence point to the increase in greenhouse emissions over the past century and a half as a driver of long-term climate change around the world. For example:

When carbon dioxide levels have been high in the past, evidence shows temperatures have also been high.
Based on Salawitch et al., 2017, updated with data to the end of 2020, CC BY
  • Long-term records from ice cores, tree rings and corals show that when carbon dioxide levels have been high, temperatures have also been high.

  • Our neighboring planets also offer evidence. Venus’ atmosphere is thick with carbon dioxide, and it is the hottest planet in our solar system as a result, even though Mercury is closer to the sun.

Temperatures are rising on every continent

The rising temperatures are evident in records from every continent and over the oceans.

The temperatures aren’t rising at the same rate everywhere, however. A variety of factors affect local temperatures, including land use that influences how much solar energy is absorbed or reflected, local heating sources like urban heat islands, and pollution.

The Arctic, for example, is warming about three times faster than the global average in part because as the planet warms, snow and ice melt makes the surface more likely to absorb, rather than reflect, the sun’s radiation. Snow cover and sea ice recede even more rapidly as a result.

What climate change is doing to the planet

Earth’s climate system is interconnected and complex, and even small temperature changes can have large impacts – for instance, with snow cover and sea levels.

Changes are already happening. Studies show that rising temperatures are already affecting precipitation, glaciers, weather patterns, tropical cyclone activity and severe storms. A number of studies show that the increases in frequency, severity and duration of heat waves, for example, affect ecosystems, human lives, commerce and agriculture.

Historical records of ocean water level have shown mostly consistent increases over the past 150 years as glacier ice melts and rising temperatures expand ocean water, with some local deviations due to sinking or rising land.

While extreme events are often due to complex sets of causes, some are exacerbated by climate change. Just as coastal flooding can be made worse by rising ocean levels, heat waves are more damaging with higher baseline temperatures.

Climate scientists work hard to estimate future changes as a result of increased carbon dioxide and other expected changes, such as world population. It’s clear that temperatures will increase and precipitation will change. The exact magnitude of change depends on many interacting factors.

A few reasons for hope

On a hopeful note, scientific research is improving our understanding of climate and the complex Earth system, identifying the most vulnerable areas and guiding efforts to reduce the drivers of climate change. Work on renewable energy and alternative energy sources, as well as ways to capture carbon from industries or from the air, are producing more options for a better prepared society.

At the same time, people are learning about how they can reduce their own impact, with the growing understanding that a globally coordinated effort is required to have a significant impact. Electric vehicles, as well as solar and wind power, are growing at previously unthinkable rates. More people are showing a willingness to adopt new strategies to use energy more efficiently, consume more sustainably and choose renewable energy.

Scientists increasingly recognize that shifting away from fossil fuels has additional benefits, including improved air quality for human health and ecosystems.

[Understand new developments in science, health and technology, each week. Subscribe to The Conversation’s science newsletter.]The Conversation

Betsy Weatherhead, Senior Scientist, University of Colorado Boulder

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

Top #climate scientists are sceptical that nations will rein in global warming — Nature #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

The Dixie wildfire in California this year was the second-largest in state history, and was fuelled by high temperatures and drought. Credit: Eric Thayer/Bloomberg/Getty

From Nature (Jeff Tollefson):

A Nature survey reveals that many authors of the latest IPCC climate-science report are anxious about the future and expect to see catastrophic changes in their lifetimes.

As a leading climate scientist, Paola Arias doesn’t need to look far to see the world changing. Shifting rain patterns threaten water supplies in her home city of Medellín, Colombia, while rising sea levels endanger the country’s coastline. She isn’t confident that international leaders will slow global warming or that her own government can handle the expected fallout, such as mass migrations and civil unrest over rising inequality. With such an uncertain future, she thought hard several years ago about whether to have children.

“My answer was no,” says Arias, a researcher at the University of Antioquia in Medellín, who was one of the 234 scientists who wrote a climate-science report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in August (see That assessment, which makes clear that the world is running out of time to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change, will figure prominently in climate negotiations over the next two weeks at the COP26 meeting in Glasgow, UK.

Many other leading climate researchers share Arias’s concerns about the future. Nature conducted an anonymous survey of the 233 living IPCC authors last month and received responses from 92 scientists — about 40% of the group. Their answers suggest strong scepticism that governments will markedly slow the pace of global warming, despite political promises made by international leaders as part of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

Six in ten of the respondents said that they expect the world to warm by at least 3 °C by the end of the century, compared with what conditions were like before the Industrial Revolution. That is far beyond the Paris agreement’s goal to limit warming to 1.5–2 °C.

Most of the survey’s respondents — 88% — said they think global warming constitutes a ‘crisis’, and nearly as many said they expect to see catastrophic impacts of climate change in their lifetimes. Just under half said that global warming has caused them to reconsider major life decisions, such as where to live and whether to have children. More than 60% said that they experience anxiety, grief or other distress because of concerns over climate change.

For Arias, who frequently sees the impacts of political instability out of her office window as immigrants from strife-torn Venezuela wander the streets seeking food and shelter, the choice about children came naturally. She says many friends and colleagues have arrived at the same conclusion. “I’m not saying that that is a decision that everyone should make,” she says, “but it’s not something I am struggling with much any more.”

The pessimism expressed by some IPCC panellists underscores the vast gulf between hopes and expectations for the climate summit that began this week in Glasgow. In advance of the meeting, the United States, the European Union, China and others have announced new plans to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, although scientific analyses suggest those plans still fall well short of the Paris goals. Over the next two weeks, countries will formalize — and perhaps even strengthen — those commitments. But making them a reality will require as-yet-unprecedented political mobilization at the national level once leaders return home.

“Right now, governments are just at the stage of providing green promises, but so far we have not seen any actions to curb greenhouse-gas emissions,” says Mouhamadou Bamba Sylla, an IPCC author and climate modeller at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences in Kigali, Rwanda. Sylla says his home country of Senegal has gone through all the motions and developed adaptation plans for a warming climate, but is anything changing on the ground? “I don’t think so,” he says.

Climate anxiety

The scientists surveyed by Nature are part of the IPCC working group charged with assessing the causes and extent of climate change. Their latest report, approved by 195 governments in August, concluded that fossil-fuel emissions are driving unprecedented planetary changes, threatening both people and the ecosystems that humans rely on for food and other resources. “Unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5 °C or even 2° C will be beyond reach,” the IPCC said. But in announcing the report, IPCC scientists stressed that these goals could still be achieved.

A separate report from the United Nations Environment Programme last week projected that the climate commitments already announced by nations would put the world on a path towards 2.7 °C of warming by the end of the century (see Other projections raise the possibility of even more reductions. The Climate Action Tracker, a consortium of scientific and academic organizations, estimates that warming would be limited to 2.4 °C if countries follow through on their latest pledges under the Paris agreement. One of the goals of the climate negotiations is to prompt more-ambitious steps for limiting greenhouse-gas emissions, but most respondents to the Nature survey seemed to be pessimistic about future policies and the amount of warming (see Supplementary information for survey data tables).

The survey results might not be surprising given the decades of limited progress in tackling climate change, but the opinions of climate researchers should raise alarms, says Diana Liverman, a geographer who studies climate at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “I suppose the fact that they’re pessimistic should make us even more worried.”

The Nature survey has limitations: it doesn’t capture the views of 60% of the IPCC authors, and two scientists wrote separately to Nature expressing concerns about the poll precisely because it taps into opinions rather than science. Those who took part did so in a personal capacity, not as representatives of the IPCC. Still, the survey provides a snapshot of the views of a significant proportion of the researchers who wrote the report.

Positive signals

Although the results indicate that many harbour deep concerns, the survey also revealed signs of optimism. More than 20% of the scientists said they expect nations to limit global warming to 2 °C, and 4% said the world might indeed meet its most aggressive goal of limiting warming to 1.5 °C — a target that many scientists and academics wrote off from the moment the Paris agreement was signed in 2015.

Charles Koven, a climate scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, draws hope about the future because of advances in science and technology, and rapidly evolving public opinion. One positive development, he says, is that results in the past few years indicate that global average temperatures will level off quickly once humanity stops emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This is contrary to long-held expectations that warming would continue for decades even if emissions were halted, owing to a lag in the climate system. He also cites plummeting costs of clean-energy technologies, as well as rising public demand for action in the face of increasingly visible climate impacts — such as the wildfires that he and his family have grown accustomed to each year in California.

“Fundamentally, I believe that the majority of people really do care about the future, and that it is possible for governments to coordinate and avoid the worst climate outcomes,” Koven says.

Two-thirds of the respondents said they engage in climate advocacy, and almost all of those who do said they promote climate science through speeches, publications or videos. Some 43% of those who engage said they have signed letters or petitions, and 40% said they have contacted lawmakers to advocate for climate policies. One-quarter said they have joined demonstrations.

The tables turned, however, when scientists considered whether the IPCC should take on more of an advocacy role, which would be a sharp break from its remit of neutrally assessing the science: nearly three-quarters of the respondents said the IPCC should refrain from climate advocacy. One survey respondent gave the IPCC credit for sticking to its core mission. “By focusing on the best available scientific information, it has avoided the politicization that has occurred with other scientific issues, such as masking and vaccinating for COVID-19,” the respondent said.

When asked to name the biggest accomplishments of the IPCC’s climate-science working group, nearly 40% of the respondents said the panel effectively informs the public and policymakers about climate change and the part that humans are playing. Many (27%) also value how the IPCC assesses and synthesizes evidence.

Since it issued its first report in 1990, the IPCC has gradually increased the representation of researchers from the global south. Nearly 80% of respondents said that the IPCC includes suitable representation of experts from all countries. Arias disagrees, saying it could do more to actively recruit scientists from the global south. Sylla says the IPCC has done an adequate job on that front, given the geographical imbalance in the broader climate-science community. However, he adds, the organization could do more in terms of local outreach to promote the science and to engage policymakers after its reports are published. “I want the IPCC to be more aggressive on that,” he says.

Like Arias, Sylla sees the impacts of political and economic instability as people pile aboard small boats leaving Senegal for a perilous journey in search of a better future. He also fears the situation will only get worse as the climate warms. Although he is currently planning to build a house for his family — far from the sea and in a location that is unlikely to flood — Sylla isn’t convinced that Senegal is where he wants to ride out the climate storm. But he is keenly aware of the fact that Europe and the United States are also vulnerable to the inevitable impacts of global warming. “So the question is, where do you go?”

Nature 599, 22-24 (2021)

‘A seed that will be planted’: Extra funding needed to deliver #water in the west — The Navajo Times

Grand Canyon Spring flowing directly into the Colorado River. Photo credit: From the Earth Studio

From The Navajo Times (Krista Allen):

Western Navajo could have an innovative economy with water, said Delegate Paul Begay.

“The number one need here in Western Navajo is water,” Begay said. “Economic development – hotels, restaurant – we can do all that, we can build all that, but we don’t have water.”

Once a water main is constructed, perhaps Western Navajo can compete with cities and municipalities nearby, said Begay, who’s pushing for the Antelope Canyon (Tsébighánlini/Tsébii’ Hazdeestas) Development Area in Łichíi’ii and for Phase I of the Western Navajo Pipeline.

Both water delivery system projects amount to $84.3 million. The pipeline alone is estimated to be nearly $45 million, the development area $30.7 million, and Antelope Marina $8.5 million.

The pipeline would take water from Lake Powell through the city of Page and along Navajo Route 20 (U.S. Route 89T) toward Coppermine, Bodaway-Gap, U.S. Route 89, and up toward Na’ní’á Hasani.

In the future, the pipeline would have lateral roots to Tónaneesdizí and Moenkopi on U.S. Route 160.

“This will get water to LeChee,” Begay explained. “It will get water to Coppermine, down to Bodaway-Gap and surrounding areas.

“It’s a seed that will be planted,” he said. “Ten to twenty years from now, we anticipate that the water will reach Tuba City, Coalmine Canyon, Cameron – the whole western region (18 chapters). Tonalea-Red Lake, Kaibeto, Ts’ahbiikin – we’ll eventually reach those areas.”

Infrastructure system

Both projects involve planning and constructing various water infrastructure components and facilities in Łichíi’ii, Bodaway-Gap, and Cameron.

Those components include a water treatment plant, miles of water and power lines, wells, and storage tanks.

Begay said there isn’t a water main in Western Navajo because of water rights and claims in the upper and lower Colorado River basins. The Navajo Nation has completed a water settlement that recognizes some of its water rights to the Colorado River system. The tribe also has an additional outstanding claim.

Right now, the Page Water Treatment Plant provides safe drinking water to the community of Łichíi’ii.

“So, we are basically at the mercy of the city when it comes to that,” Begay said. “One of our justifications for beginning this Western Navajo Pipeline is that we want to be self-sufficient, self-reliant…

Begay’s legislation (CJY-39-21) asks for $58.2 million in Sih Hásin Funds to the Navajo Nation Water Management Branch for Phase I of the Western Navajo Pipeline.

“We (along with co-sponsors Carl Slater, Herman Daniels Jr., Otto Tso and Thomas Walker Jr.) asked for $58 million because that was the shortfall,” Begay said.

Begay said Phase I could be eligible for funding under the American Rescue Plan Act. If it is suitable, the funds will replace the money allocated from Sih Hásin.

“Funding will jump start our (own) water treatment facility (in Western Navajo),” Begay said. “We don’t know exactly how many phases (it will take to complete the pipeline).

“We’re looking at this (Sih Hásin Fund) to help us with our procurement process,” he said, “the assessment process, getting the right-of-way. This $58 million will fund that (over) two to two and half years.

“That’s what we call a ‘shovel-ready project,’ ready for work to begin,” he said. “After that, it’ll take another four to four and half years for the actual work to happen and to complete.”

This means that Phase I will be completed within five years, and the pipeline should reach Tónaneesdizí and the rest of the Western Navajo region within 20 years…

No water in the west

A water settlement nine years ago would have sent a water delivery pipeline from Lake Powell through the entire Navajo Nation and connected to the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project, which is now under construction.

President Jonathan Nez, then a Council delegate, and his colleagues voted down the Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Rights Settlement.

The Council at the time, in 2012, voted six in favor and 15 opposed.

The proposed settlement agreement included about $4 million for water projects for the Navajo and Hopi nations.

Now, Western Navajo is at risk from a water crisis. While a storage tank that will provide water storage for the Gap Water System, a health clinic, and the Indian Health Service Koko pipeline (extending water to 32 existing homes) is being built in Bodaway-Gap, tour businesses in the Tsébighánlini/Tsébii’ Hazdeestas area need water.

“We have over 15 businesspeople that run the slot canyon tours, and that’s all they have,” Begay said. “They don’t have water. They would like to add restaurants and motels (to their businesses), so we can be competitive. This Western Navajo Pipeline will help in that area…

Begay added, “If anybody needs water, it’s the Navajo people. We’ve been here for hundreds of years, supposedly … the original landlords here. We should be the one who should have use of the water first rather than transported or just being let go, and it’ll go somewhere else.”

From the 2018 Tribal Water Study, this graphic shows the location of the 29 federally-recognized tribes in the Colorado River Basin. Map credit: USBR

The sand is there, but low water levels halt a controlled flood to restore #GrandCanyon’s beaches — #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Glen Canyon Dam high flow release photo.

From (Brandon Loomis):

The Southwest’s active monsoon season this year washed tons of sand into the Colorado River, where it could have helped shore up the Grand Canyon’s withering beaches, if not for one big problem: The water stored behind Glen Canyon Dam is at an all-time low after more than two decades of drought.

As a result, the federal government’s dam managers have hit pause on an environmental program that calls for controlled floods out of Lake Powell when there’s enough sand for the water to push up and rebuild sandbars and beaches, preserving the national park’s ecology, river trip campsites and archaeological sites.

Prodigious rains from the summer and fall monsoon dumped the sand that created the right conditions for a November flood but left nowhere near enough water to prop up the shrinking reservoir.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation cited projected losses in the dam’s hydropower production as a reason to hold back the envisioned floodwaters. That could save up to $4 million for electric ratepayers across the West, but it also sets an ominous precedent for a river that’s becoming too drained by aridification and overuse to sustain its own health…

The dam that created Lake Powell in the early 1960s choked off more than nine-tenths of the Colorado’s contribution to Grand Canyon’s sand flow, dropping it on the new lakebed and sending clear water downstream from the hydropower plant’s turbines.

That left the sand that the Paria River washes out of southern Utah toward the Colorado at Lees Ferry to build beaches in the upper Grand Canyon, and the sand from Arizona’s Little Colorado River deeper in the canyon…

Starting in the 1980s, a group of scientists puzzling over how to restore a semblance of nature in the canyon imagined a program opening the dam’s bypass tubes to create artificial floods whenever enough sand accumulated for the pulse of water to push it downstream and deposit it on bars and beaches.

Benefits would include everything from the creation of shallow, warm backwaters more familiar to the river’s native fishes to coverage of threatened artifacts, and restoration of beaches for float trips that account for more than 100,000 user days on the river each year.

The occasional planned floods began in 1996, four years after Congress passed the Grand Canyon Protection Act mandating dam operations that balance water and power needs with the canyon’s environment. The floods continued haltingly, every several years until the Obama administration adopted a plan that supporters believed took costs and politics out of the equation and would trigger a flood whenever sand measurements at Lees Ferry warranted one.

That would include this fall when Utah State University river researcher Jack Schmidt said the sand is more plentiful than it is in three out of every four years.

Schmidt was among the scientists who first envisioned the controlled floods, and he later directed the U.S. Geological Survey’s Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center. He said he fears the government’s decision against flooding when there’s this much sand indicates that low water levels are leading to backsliding on the commitment to manage according to the science.

“This decision takes us dangerously close to the old world where politics dictates not having a flood,” Schmidt said…

Reclamation officials at the bureau’s Upper Colorado Basin office in Salt Lake City decided against conducting a flood this fall. They did not respond to a request for comment, but a bureau presentation at the technical work group’s fall meeting cited the Western Area Power Administration’s hydropower cost estimates as a reason that regional state and federal officials advised against pushing more water downstream.

They determined that a 60-hour flood of the sort that has occurred before would cost $1.3 million in lost hydropower revenues, while an unprecedented 192-hour flood — allowed by rule when sand accumulates like it did this year — would cost $3.7 million.

A 192-hour flood could have been especially problematic, the officials reported, because it would have dropped the lake’s elevation by 5 feet, to within about 10 feet of the dam’s buffer zone for producing hydropower without damaging the turbines. A 60-hour flood would limit the reduction to about 2 feet…

Before and after photos of results of the high flow experiment in 2008 via USGS

Controlled floods, officially known as high-flow experiments, are no cure for what ails the Grand Canyon. They temporarily restore beaches, which are then eroded over time by flows that fluctuate to meet water and power demands. Only the next flood can keep them from eroding to critically low levels.

Today, with no flood since 2018, the sandbars and beaches are as low as they’ve been in a decade, and are projected to decline another 10% before next year’s rafting season. Had the government scheduled a 192-hour flood, the beaches were projected to grow by 75%, and to remain 50% larger after winter erosion…

“It seems as though the Grand Canyon Protection Act was not given much weight,” said Peter Bungart, a cultural resources officer for the Hualapai Tribe.

That law’s mandate for managing the dam in harmony with canyon resources is “clear as mud,” according to University of Utah law professor Robert Adler. It first directs the government to release water in a way that protects and restores the natural and recreational resources for which Grand Canyon National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area were established.

Then it says to do that in a way that’s consistent with the suite of other laws governing the river’s water storage and distribution agreements, laws often in conflict with the canyon’s environmental interests…

Still, environmental groups and tribes objecting to the flood’s rejection and the exclusive decision-making process sent a joint letter to the Bureau of Reclamation on Wednesday seeking a greater role in future flood debates, and greater consideration to the Grand Canyon Protection Act…

If losing a few million dollars in revenues is to become a flood disqualifier, [Larry] Stevens said, there may never be more floods.

November 2012 High Flow Experiment via Protect the Flows

A hotter, drier west poses hard questions for the #water flowing out of the #ColoradoRiver — The Ark Valley Voice #ArkansasRiver #COriver #aridification

Headwaters of the Arkansas River basin. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journlaism

From The Ark Valley Voice (Tara Flanagan):

Colorado’s map from the Oct. 26, 2020, U.S. Drought Monitor looked like some kind of fresh hell, its swaths of red and orange highlighting what happens when there is too much heat and not enough water for a long time. Colorado’s resulting fire crisis had good company; much of the Western United States had similar stories of people running from their homes as the fires closed in.

It was so 2020, as further evidenced by the strain on the Colorado River and the ongoing wake-up calls in communities that receive its water – directly or diverted.

Locally, Chaffee County’s economies lean on supplemental summer releases into the Arkansas River. Despite two decades of drought and aridification, the Arkansas has been able to remain visually stunning in the high season – not entirely due to the workings of nature. It’s uncertain how that may change.

Colorado Drought Monitor October 27, 2020.

One year later, the colors on Colorado’s map have softened to shades of beige and an innocuous-looking lemon-yellow, with darker spots remaining in the northwest corner and the far southwest edge. With some rain to its credit over this past summer and perhaps just plain luck, Colorado managed to escape the land-killing infernos such as the Cameron Peak Fire and the aptly named East Troublesome Fire of 2020.

Nobody knows exactly how those 2020 fires would have raged had not a major snowstorm rolled in on Oct. 25 last year and snuffed their trajectories. As it stood, East Troublesome charred 193,212 acres and 580 structures.

Snow is good. And traditionally it has been the utility player, if not hero, in the seven-state region served by the Colorado River, where, in a perfect world, it stores naturally on Colorado’s mountain peaks. Upon melting with a timed grace and running off in mid-spring, it flows south and west to the Gulf of California, serving some 40 million people en route.

Thanks to warmer temperatures and aridification, that sweet rhythm is off. Spring runoff gushes from the peaks too fast and sinks into the parched landscape before enough of it gets to its intended waterways.

Colorado Drought Monitor map October 26, 2021.

That said, later-season snows helped address an alarming dry trend in the spring of 2021, helping Chaffee County look better on the Drought Monitor and delighting those with fixations on the SNOTEL system and its high-country snowpack reports. The infusion of summer rain gave the appearance of a kinda-maybe monsoon pattern locally.

Water flowing through the Fry-Ark system, the trans-basin diversion from the Colorado River that flows out of the Frying Pan River in Pitkin County and which is released from Turquoise Lake and Twin Lakes, once again plumped the moneymaking waves in the Arkansas River from July 1 until mid-August this year.

Under the Voluntary Flow Management Program with the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District (SECWCD), 10,000 acre-feet of water is allocated during that time; moved to benefit recreation. All told, Fry-Ark sends out an average of 58,000 acre-feet each year, much of it going to agriculture below the Pueblo Reservoir.

It didn’t hurt that the Pueblo Board of Water Works was able to release 6,000 acre-feet from Clear Creek Reservoir early in the summer season. It echoed the cooperative dance of moving large amounts of water that has, by necessity, developed between water entities. This highlights the increased communication that is one of the upsides in the long-reaching, exhaustive conversations about water among an exhaustive list of stakeholders in Colorado and the West.

Chris Woodka, Senior Policy and Issues Management Manager with the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, said the increasing pressures on water have caused groups to come to the table and seek solutions. “What’s different is we’re talking all the time with each other,” he said. “There was a time when people were wary of how other people were moving water. Everyone now realizes it’s to their advantage to talk.”

With water from Fry-Ark and Clear Creek Reservoir – not to mention rain, the fattened Arkansas River gurgled through the county once again and gave more than a passing nod to the local economies over the summer. Pandemic aside, things seemed nice and easy.

“It almost gives you a false sense of security,” [Greg] Felt said, noting that with continuing drought and aridification, there are increasing signs of hydrological systems not being able to correct themselves.

“That whole program is built on Fry-Ark water,” he said. “There’s a lot at stake here. Diversions from the Fry-Ark project could be seriously impacted, and that’s a major concern.”

“It’s a no-brainer, probably, that a voluntary flow management program will be a lower priority than delivery for consumptive use,” he added.

Indeed, nothing is truly nice and easy anymore as the West faces challenges to just about everything that is known about water and how it continues to serve us…

…with average temperatures in the Colorado River Basin running 2 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than in the 20th century, those original nice ideas [Colorado River Compact] are being retooled or sidelined in the name of badly needed, better ideas; addressing drought, aridification and salination, and how to feed people when the river can’t help so much anymore. A new plan for operating the Colorado River is due in 2026.

Navajo Dam operations update (November 2, 2021): Releases bumping down to 300 cfs #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

The outflow at the bottom of Navajo Dam in New Mexico. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

In response to decreasing irrigation and increasing flows in the critical habitat reach, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled a decrease in the release from Navajo Dam from 350 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 300 cfs for Tuesday, November 2nd, at 4:00 AM.

Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell). This release change is calculated as the minimum required to maintain the target baseflow.

The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area. The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell. Due to low storage and forecast levels in WY 2022, the minimum release of 250 cfs, as documented in the Navajo Record of Decision (2006), may be implemented this winter as long as that release can satisfy the target baseflow.

Don’t choose extinction — The United Nations Development Programme #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

From the United Nations Development Programme:

The world spends an astounding US$423 billion annually to subsidize fossil fuels for consumers – oil, electricity that is generated by the burning of other fossil fuels, gas, and coal. This is four times the amount being called for to help poor countries tackle the climate crisis, one of the sticking points ahead of the COP26 global climate conference next week, according to new UN Development Programme (UNDP) research.

The amount spent directly on these subsidies could pay for COVID-19 vaccinations for every person in the world, or pay for three times the annual amount needed to eradicate global extreme poverty. When indirect costs, including costs to the environment, are factored into these subsidies, the figure rises to almost US$6 trillion, according to data published recently by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Instead, UNDP’s analysis highlights that these funds, paid for by taxpayers, end up deepening inequality and impeding action on climate change.

The main contributor to the climate emergency is the energy sector which accounts for 73 percent of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. Fossil fuel subsidy reforms would contribute to reducing CO2 emissions and benefit human health and well-being, and they are a first step towards correctly pricing energy – one that reflects the ‘true’ and full cost of using fossil fuels to society and the environment.

But UNDP’s analysis shows that fossil fuel subsidy reforms can also be unfair and harmful for households and society if they are poorly designed. While fossil fuel subsidies tend to be an unequalising tool – as the lion’s share of the benefits concentrate among the rich – these subsidies also represent an important portion of poor peoples’ incomes that otherwise must be paid for energy consumption. Fossil fuel subsidies’ removal thus could easily become an income- and energy-impoverishing strategy. This contributes to making fossil fuels reform difficult, and imposes a key barrier to transitioning to clean and renewable energy sources.

The Don’t Choose Extinction campaign features a collective intelligence platform, the Global Mindpool, to help tackle the most important issues of our time. Linking insights from around the world – on the climate emergency, the crisis in nature and inequality – the Global Mindpool will support UNDP to better inform and equip policy makers in government, civil society, and the private sector.

For more information on the ‘Don’t Choose Extinction’ campaign, visit

UNDP is the leading United Nations organization fighting to end the injustice of poverty, inequality, and climate change. Working with our broad network of experts and partners in 170 countries, we help nations to build integrated, lasting solutions for people and planet.