Trouble swirls above the aquifers of Colorado’s San Luis Valley, where farmers and ranchers raise and grow much of the region’s cattle, potatoes, alfalfa and barley. Those aquifers are losing water as the American West dries out and whatever remains is spoken for. Farmers and ranchers have labored for decades to use less of the valley’s most precious resource. Today, the farmers say, a new but familiar threat approaches.
A Front Range company called Renewable Water Resources, backed by a cadre of builders, developers and former Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, wants to drill into the aquifers storing the valley’s declining water supply and pipe it to the ever-growing Douglas County.
The Front Range has money, Renewable Water Resources’ Managing Partner Sean Tonner often says. And the San Luis Valley has water. Tonner is quick to cite poverty statistics for valley residents and says his company can pay those willing to sell their water rights and bring millions more to stimulate the local economy. It’s a win-win deal, he said.
Opposition is widespread among the valley’s farmers, ranchers, water managers, environmentalists, bankers and politicians. Alamosa, Rio Grande and Mineral counties, alongside the cities of Alamosa, Monte Vista, La Jara, Manassa and Crestone passed resolutions opposing the project. So have Conejos Clean Water, the Rio Grande Water Conservation District and the San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council. People in the valley describe the plan as an old-fashioned “buy and dry” scheme…
Not only would Tonner’s plan further dry life in the mountain valley but, residents warn, it would also set a dangerous precedent that other fast-growing Front Range communities could quench their thirst by taking the one thing the San Luis Valley needs most. Money the project would bring into the valley – including a $50 million community fund – isn’t the “magic bullet” for the area’s economic woes, but Tonner argues it’s the best plan proposed yet. And in return, if Douglas County moves now, he said its commissioners can lock-in a renewable source of high-quality water at rates far below market prices.
The deal hinges on Douglas County’s split, three-person Board of County Commissioners.
Click the link to read the article on the Climate Change Communication website (Jennifer Marlon, Liz Neyens, Martial Jefferson, Seth Rosenthal, Peter Howe, Matto Mildenberger and Anthony Leiserowitz):
Public opinion can be a powerful influence on climate change policy and decision making – for mitigation, adaptation, justice, and equity. The Yale Climate Opinion Maps (YCOM) have provided state and local information about the US climate opinion since 2014, and we are pleased to release our latest update with data collected through 2021.
The YCOM 2021 maps depict geographic variation across 30 measures of climate change beliefs, risk perceptions, policy preferences, and behavior. The new maps show that large majorities in every state think global warming is happening and in most states (42), majorities think global warming is mostly human caused (Fig. 1). Yet, despite the fact that human activities are the dominant cause of global warming, many U.S. residents do not understand this fact.
Comparisons between our YCOM 2018 and new YCOM 2021 maps (Fig. 2) illustrate an important shift in national and local climate change beliefs. For example, we find a substantial increase in the number of rural counties with majorities that think that global warming is already harming people in the US now or within the next 10 years, especially across northern states such as Oregon and Montana and along the Atlantic coast, including Florida and South Carolina.
Our surveys have shown that support for climate policy has increased nationally, and the latest maps show where, at the state level, this is occurring. Four new states – Utah, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Iowa – now have majorities that want their own Governors to do more to address global warming (Fig. 3). Increasing incidents of extreme weather in communities across the country, including stronger storms, more uncontrollable wildfires, and more intense heat waves are likely a key factor in these opinion changes, but changes in leadership, political discourse, and media coverage are likely also important factors.
Media coverage in particular, has substantially increased over the past four years, moving from a national average of 22% of adults who say they hear about global warming in the media at least once a week in 2018, to 33% in 2021 (Fig. 4). Exposure to climate change media appears to have increased the most in northern states, including Oregon and New York (+14 percentage points), and Idaho, Maine, Vermont, and Washington (+13 pp). More residents of southern states including South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee, however, also say they are hearing about it more (+11 pp), since 2018.
We encourage you to visit the interactive maps for more details (2018 maps; 2021 maps)*. As you scroll down the page of the interactive maps you will find bar charts that show results for every question for any geographic location that you select.
We hope these new maps provide helpful context and insight about climate views in the US as you work to engage your own audiences on this vital issue over the coming weeks and months. Please stay tuned for more comprehensive analyses of subnational changes over time in the coming months.
* Please note that while we produced maps in other years for YCOM, the underlying model has changed over time, so we discourage direct comparisons between specific counties and years, but regional differences in the maps between years can reveal broader trends. We are currently in the process of creating robust time series for all years, so please stay tuned for more change-over-time data at subnational scales.
Landowners in Colorado could play a major role in President Joe Biden’s efforts to conserve 30% of the nation’s undeveloped lands by 2030, and make money at the same time.
Jay Fetcher’s family has been ranching cattle since 1994. He said when his family looked into the idea of a conservation easement for their property near Steamboat Springs, his father was immediately sold.
He did not want to see the land developed for the service industry; he wanted it to remain land that produced food…
The family’s decision to conserve the land for ranching caught on, and led to Fetcher founding the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust…
Conservation efforts also are seen as critical for protecting clean-water supplies, especially during times of severe drought. Melissa Daruna, executive director of the group Keep it Colorado, said some strategies already under way could provide a path for communities across the West.
She pointed to local stakeholders on the Eastern Plains outside Pueblo who are taking the lead to reckon with current and future impacts of a warming climate…
In 2008, lawmakers allowed the donated value of the land set aside for conservation to be considered a state tax credit which can be resold to Colorado taxpayers with outstanding tax burdens.
“So all of a sudden, I do an easement, I can sell the value of that easement to a Colorado taxpayer,” said Fetcher. “And I get a check in my pocket. You know, we’re not going to develop the land anyway, but all of a sudden I get paid for not doing it.”
At a time when climate change increasingly threatens water resources across the American West, what can we do to secure a future of sustainability rather than scarcity?
One promising way forward: Look to nature-based solutions from the past.
In the 16th century, long before Europeans settled the continent, the North American beaver was the continent’s most diligent and effective water manager.
Beaver dams – millions of small-scale barriers of twigs, branches and mud – created ponds that acted like giant sponges on the landscape. They stored moisture and created complex wetlands that sustained diverse flora and fauna. They captured sediment and snowmelt that slowed floodwaters and – because they were imperfect and leaky – released water downstream in more even amounts throughout the year.
Then, in a historical instant, beavers were gone from almost every creek and stream – trapped to near extinction to satisfy European trends that prized fur as fashion.
The disappearance of beavers and the natural reservoirs they built created a ripple impact across ecosystems – more erosion in rivers, fewer wetlands, drier landscapes. Many jurisdictions still consider beavers a pest that hinders agricultural productivity.
Today, however, beavers are having a renaissance moment among scientists, conservationists, land managers and some ranchers and farmers.
This keystone species is being rightfully recognized for its ability to restore watery habitat, improve riparian ecosystem health and improve the reliability of water supply – with potential implications for large river systems.
Particularly in dry regions like the Colorado River basin, these rodents can come to the rescue of river systems and are inspiring humans to build beaver-related natural infrastructure.
These structures can create a virtuous cycle of restoration that revives mountain meadows and stream meanders, supports wildlife populations, provides natural firebreaks and fire refuge for wildlife and alleviates impacts of post-fire flooding.
To assess the impact of this work, and its potential to provide system-wide benefit for Colorado River water management, the foundation has initiated an effort to identify and map changes in vegetated wetlands and beaver ponds throughout the basin.
The first-of-its-kind project, led by Lynker Technologies and the Colorado Natural Heritage Program (CNHP) at Colorado State University, will use remote sensing and machine-learning techniques to map the extent of wetlands and the presence of beaver ponds – and chronicle how they have changed over time.
Scientists will use high-resolution 4-band aerial photography from the National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) and Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) remote sensing methods to map wetland extent.
The team has developed deep-learning algorithms to identify and detect beaver ponds from existing historical data, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wetlands Inventory.
Wetland ecologists from the Colorado Natural Heritage Program, led by Sarah Marshall, will provide training to the mapping team using direct knowledge of the beaver-dam complexes and conduct field surveys to measure map accuracy.
Not only will the maps provide insight into increases or decreases in wetlands over the past decade, but they can also show us ongoing changes including the addition of new wetlands, whether created through beaver-related restoration or beavers themselves.
The mapping data will be released publicly and provide a year-over-year analysis of the impacts of wetlands and beaver-related restoration projects.
The foundation’s support for beaver-related restoration reflects our belief in demonstrating the value of nature-based, nature-friendly solutions that restore ecosystem health and protect water quality and quantity.
At the same time, our investment in this wetlands mapping work is part of a commitment to invest in new technologies that can help the foundation and its partners learn how wetland coverage changes over the next five years.
We don’t yet know the full potential of beaver-related restoration or whether beavers themselves can mount a comeback, embraced as allies in the fight to protect against climate change.
But their ability to provide free, self-sustaining water infrastructure represents, at a minimum, an opportunity well worth exploring.
“This report is a dire warning about the consequences of inaction,” said Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC. “It shows that climate change is a grave and mounting threat to our wellbeing and a healthy planet. Our actions today will shape how people adapt and nature responds to increasing climate risks.”
The world faces unavoidable multiple climate hazards over the next two decades with global warming of 1.5°C (2.7°F). Even temporarily exceeding this warming level will result in additional severe impacts, some of which will be irreversible. Risks for society will increase, including to infrastructure and low-lying coastal settlements.
The Summary for Policymakers of the IPCC Working Group II report, Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability was approved on Sunday, February 27 2022, by 195 member governments of the IPCC, through a virtual approval session that was held over two weeks starting on February 14.
Urgent action required to deal with increasing risks
Increased heatwaves, droughts and floods are already exceeding plants’ and animals’ tolerance thresholds, driving mass mortalities in species such as trees and corals. These weather extremes are occurring simultaneously, causing cascading impacts that are increasingly difficult to manage. They have exposed millions of people to acute food and water insecurity, especially in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, on Small Islands and in the Arctic.
To avoid mounting loss of life, biodiversity and infrastructure, ambitious, accelerated action is required to adapt to climate change, at the same time as making rapid, deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. So far, progress on adaptation is uneven and there are increasing gaps between action taken and what is needed to deal with the increasing risks, the new report finds. These gaps are largest among lower-income populations.
The Working Group II report is the second instalment of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), which will be completed this year.
“This report recognizes the interdependence of climate, biodiversity and people and integrates natural, social and economic sciences more strongly than earlier IPCC assessments,” said Hoesung Lee. “It emphasizes the urgency of immediate and more ambitious action to address climate risks. Half measures are no longer an option.”
Safeguarding and strengthening nature is key to securing a liveable future
There are options to adapt to a changing climate. This report provides new insights into nature’s potential not only to reduce climate risks but also to improve people’s lives.
“Healthy ecosystems are more resilient to climate change and provide life-critical services such as food and clean water”, said IPCC Working Group II Co-Chair Hans-Otto Pörtner. “By restoring degraded ecosystems and effectively and equitably conserving 30 to 50 per cent of Earth’s land, freshwater and ocean habitats, society can benefit from nature’s capacity to absorb and store carbon, and we can accelerate progress towards sustainable development, but adequate finance and political support are essential.”
Scientists point out that climate change interacts with global trends such as unsustainable use of natural resources, growing urbanization, social inequalities, losses and damages from extreme events and a pandemic, jeopardizing future development.
“Our assessment clearly shows that tackling all these different challenges involves everyone – governments, the private sector, civil society – working together to prioritize risk reduction, as well as equity and justice, in decision-making and investment,” said IPCC Working Group II Co-Chair Debra Roberts.
“In this way, different interests, values and world views can be reconciled. By bringing together scientific and technological know-how as well as Indigenous and local knowledge, solutions will be more effective. Failure to achieve climate resilient and sustainable development will result in a sub-optimal future for people and nature.”
Cities: Hotspots of impacts and risks, but also a crucial part of the solution
This report provides a detailed assessment of climate change impacts, risks and adaptation in cities, where more than half the world’s population lives. People’s health, lives and livelihoods, as well as property and critical infrastructure, including energy and transportation systems, are being increasingly adversely affected by hazards from heatwaves, storms, drought and flooding as well as slow-onset changes, including sea level rise.
“Together, growing urbanization and climate change create complex risks, especially for those cities that already experience poorly planned urban growth, high levels of poverty and unemployment, and a lack of basic services,” Debra Roberts said.
“But cities also provide opportunities for climate action – green buildings, reliable supplies of clean water and renewable energy, and sustainable transport systems that connect urban and rural areas can all lead to a more inclusive, fairer society.”
There is increasing evidence of adaptation that has caused unintended consequences, for example destroying nature, putting peoples’ lives at risk or increasing greenhouse gas emissions. This can be avoided by involving everyone in planning, attention to equity and justice, and drawing on Indigenous and local knowledge.
A narrowing window for action
Climate change is a global challenge that requires local solutions and that’s why the Working Group II contribution to the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) provides extensive regional information to enable Climate Resilient Development.
The report clearly states Climate Resilient Development is already challenging at current warming levels. It will become more limited if global warming exceeds 1.5°C (2.7°F). In some regions it will be impossible if global warming exceeds 2°C (3.6°F). This key finding underlines the urgency for climate action, focusing on equity and justice. Adequate funding, technology transfer, political commitment and partnership lead to more effective climate change adaptation and emissions reductions.
“The scientific evidence is unequivocal: climate change is a threat to human wellbeing and the health of the planet. Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner.
For more information, please contact:
IPCC Press Office, Email: email@example.com IPCC Working Group II:
Sina Löschke, Komila Nabiyeva: firstname.lastname@example.org
Click the link to read “Humanity has a ‘brief and rapidly closing window’ to avoid a hotter, deadly future, U.N. climate report says: Latest IPCC report details escalating toll — but top scientists say the world still can choose a less catastrophic path” from The Washington Post (Sarah Kaplan and Brady Dennis). Here’s an excerpt:
Unchecked greenhouse gas emissions will raise sea levels several feet, swallowing small island nations and overwhelming even the world’s wealthiest coastal regions. Drought, heat, hunger and disaster may force millions of people from their homes. Coral reefs could vanish, along with a growing number of animal species. Disease-carrying insects would proliferate. Deaths — from malnutrition, extreme heat, pollution — will surge.
These are some of the grim projections detailed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations body dedicated to providing policymakers with regular assessments of the warming world…
Low-income countries, which generate only a tiny fraction of global emissions, will experience the vast majority of deaths and displacement from the worst-case warming scenarios, the IPCC warns. Yet these nations have the least capacity to adapt — a disparity that extends to even the basic research needed to understand looming risks.
“I have seen many scientific reports in my time, but nothing like this,” U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said in a statement. Noting the litany of devastating impacts that already are unfolding, he described the document as “an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership.”
Yet if there is a glimmer of hope in the more than 3,500-page report, it is that the world still has a chance to choose a less catastrophic path. While some climate impacts are destined to worsen, the amount that Earth ultimately warms is not yet written in stone.
The report makes clear, however, that averting the worst-case scenarios will require nothing less than transformational change on a global scale.
The world will need to overhaul energy systems, redesign cities and revolutionize how humans grow food. Rather than reacting to climate disturbances after they happen, the IPCC says, communities must more aggressively adapt for the changes they know are coming. These investments could save trillions of dollars and millions of lives, but they have so far been in short supply.
The IPCC report is a warning letter to a world on the brink. The urgency and escalating toll of climate change has never been clearer, it says. Humanity can’t afford to wait one more day to take action — otherwise we may miss the “brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all.”