#ClimateChange: IPCC report warns of ‘irreversible’ impacts of #GlobalWarming — BBC

Though overused and overallocated, the Colorado River still provides water for 40 million people in the United States, Mexico and 30 Native American tribes. Water use across the Colorado River Basin has been unsustainable for years, and it was set up to be that way, going back to the 1922 Colorado River Compact that divided up the river. But climate change is now magnifying and accelerating problems in the basin. Photo credit: The Environmental Defense Fund

Click the link to read the article on the BBC website (Matt McGrath). Here’s an excerpt:

Many of the impacts of global warming are now simply “irreversible” according to the UN’s latest assessment. But the authors of a new report say that there is still a brief window of time to avoid the very worst. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that humans and nature are being pushed beyond their abilities to adapt. Over 40% of the world’s population are “highly vulnerable” to climate, the sombre study finds.

But there’s hope that if the rise in temperatures is kept below 1.5C, it would reduce projected losses. Just four months on from COP26, where world leaders committed themselves to rapid action on climate change, this new UN study shows the scale of their task.

“Our report clearly indicates that places where people live and work may cease to exist, that ecosystems and species that we’ve all grown up with and that are central to our cultures and inform our languages may disappear,” said Prof Debra Roberts, co-chair of the IPCC.

“So this is really a key moment. Our report points out very clearly, this is the decade of action, if we are going to turn things around.”


Warming threats to species

  • About half of the living organisms assessed in the report are already moving, to higher ground or towards the poles.
  • While up to 14% of species assessed will likely face a very high risk of extinction if the world warms by 1.5C, this will rise to up to 29% of species at 3C of warming.
  • For creatures living in areas that are classed as vulnerable biodiversity hotspots, their already very high extinction risk is expected to double as warming rises towards 2C, and to go up tenfold if the world goes to 3C.
  • Prairie smoke is one of the plant species Fort Lewis College researcher Heidi Stetzer is studying to try and understand how a warming climate will influence snowfall in the West. (USFWS Mountain-Prairie Region)

    Click the link to read “‘Delay is Death,’ said UN Chief António Guterres of the New IPCC Report Showing Climate Impacts Are Outpacing Adaptation Efforts” on the Inside Climate News website (Bob Berwyn). Here’s an excerpt:

    The findings show the urgency of immediate climate action, but some scientists worry that the conflict in Ukraine may be distracting from the gravity of its message.

    It might be hard to concentrate on the new science assessment as a war erupts in Europe, but it’s important to focus on both subjects at the same time because they are deeply related, said Rod Schoonover, a climate security expert with the Council on Strategic Risks’ Center for Climate and Security, and a former United States intelligence officer.

    Oil and gas development on the Roan via Airphotona

    “You shouldn’t shut one or the other off. Humanity’s relationship to fossil fuel is underwriting this invasion,” he said. “Putin thought he could get away with it because of Europe’s dependence on Russian gas.”

    In the longer term, ending the addiction could even reduce the need for military spending, since much of it goes to securing sources and transportation of oil and gas. “Reducing reliance on fossil fuels enhances national security for the United States and other countries, and we should make that argument,” Schoonover said.

    In the report, hundreds of scientists representing nearly every country described spiraling climate impacts, with the deadly, destructive effects like floods, famines and wildfires outpacing even some of the most ambitious efforts to adapt. The scientists warned that some of the changes are so extreme and fast that they will push communities beyond their ability to deal with them in places like the Arctic and along some coastlines, and pose a serious threat to food systems in many regions within decades.

    “There are more extremes than the IPCC predicted just a few years ago,” said Rebecca Carter, acting director for climate resilience practice with the World Resources Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental and policy think tank. “This is not just about the future any more. This is now. We didn’t prevent climate change.” Carter was not involved with producing the report.

    Karley Robinson with newborn son Quill on their back proch in Windsor, CO. A multi-well oil and gas site sits less than 100 feet from their back door, with holding tanks and combustor towers that burn off excess gases. Quill was born 4 weeks premature. Pictured here at 6 weeks old. Photo credit: The High Country News

    The body of scientific research on global warming’s health impacts, including on mental health, has grown since the IPCC’s last climate assessment cycle in 2014. It shows that scientists until recently have underestimated the threat of the rapid spread of new infectious diseases, like tropical pathogens carried by insects that are expanding their ranges to areas once too cold for them, for example. And the looming climate threat is raising concerns about serious psychological trauma for many experiencing existential fear, especially young people.

    “Delay is death,” said United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, summarizing the findings of the latest in a 30-year series of reports that are the scientific foundation of the Paris agreement to limit global warming close to 1.5 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), which was reached under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2015.

    Guterres said the report presents “an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership,” which has ignored the fact that nearly half of humanity is living in the climate danger zone right now, and many ecosystems are already at the point of no return…

    Overshooting the 1.5 Celsius Goal Poses a Huge Risk

    Ecologist Camille Parmesan, one of the lead authors of the report, said it shows that climate impacts will arrive faster and be “much more widespread than we thought.” The science assessed for it by the IPCC opened “a whole new realm on infectious diseases emerging in new areas,” and documents species extinctions and mass mortalities of mammals caused directly by climate change. Local losses of key species are already affecting the stability and integrity of ecosystems, she added.

    Even to the authors, the intensity of some impacts from the current level of warming were surprising and disturbing, she said. Insect-ravaged forests, dried-up peatlands and “even intact, undisturbed Amazon rainforest” are losing their ability to remove carbon dioxide from the air, she said. “Maybe not every year,” she continued, but at a pace that could further accelerate warming.

    Atmospheric CO2 at Mauna Loa Observatory August 7, 2021.

    Meanwhile, global emissions are still going up, and the panel’s report warned how risky it would be to shoot past the Paris agreement goal and rely on unproven carbon dioxide removal technologies to reduce the temperature quickly…

    In the United States and North America, the report says that many millions of people in every sector and in every region are feeling the effects of climate change “much faster and more severely than we previously thought,” said co-author Sherilee Harper, a public health and climate researcher with the University of Alberta.

    USFS highest risk firesheds January 2022.

    Register Now for Spring #Water Users Meeting on April 13 at Embassy Suites in #Loveland — @Northern_Water

    Cache la Poudre River drop structure. Photo credit: Northern Water

    From email from Northern Water (Brad Wind):

    On behalf of Northern Water’s Board of Directors and staff, I am pleased to invite you to return to our in-person Spring Water Users Meeting from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 13, 2022, at the Embassy Suites in Loveland.

    The meeting will be an opportunity to learn about current snowpack and water storage conditions, runoff and streamflow predictions, progress on future water supply projects and more. After a discussion of the region’s water outlook, attendees will be encouraged to provide input on the Board’s pending 2022 Colorado-Big Thompson Project supplemental quota declaration. Attendees also will hear about the latest activities being carried out by Northern Water, such as the construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir, the restoration of lands damaged by the 2020 Colorado Wildfires and the future of our forested source watersheds.

    The meeting’s speakers will include Corey DeAngelis, Division 1 Engineer from the Colorado Division of Water Resources; Jeff Rieker, Area Manager for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Eastern Colorado Area Office; Monte Williams, Forest Supervisor from the U.S. Forest Service; Kevin Rein, State Engineer and Director of the Colorado Division of Water Resources; and several Northern Water staff members.

    Please register for the meeting by March 30 at http://www.northernwater.org/NorthernWaterevents. Lunch is provided, but to help us with an accurate catering count please let us know if you’ll be able to join us for lunch when you register. If you are unable to register online, please feel free to call our registration line at 970-622-2234.

    We look forward to seeing you for our 2022 Spring Water Users Meeting.

    Register here.

    Two big snowstorms have made a world of difference for #Aspen’s slopes: The two storms accounted for about one-third of all snowfall this season — The Aspen Times #snowpack

    Click the link to read the article on The Aspen Times website (Scott Condon). Here’s an excerpt:

    Two prolific storm cycles this ski season have produced more than one-third of the total snowfall on the ski slopes so far this season, according to Aspen Skiing Co.’s snow reports. A four-day storm during Christmas week and the three-day powder wave last week produced a cumulative 50 inches of snow at Aspen Mountain and 62 inches of snow at Snowmass, the snow reports show.

    Since opening day of ski season, Aspen Mountain has received 150 inches of snow, so the two big storms combined for 33% of the total. Snowmass has received 180 inches of snow since opening day, so the one-two punch of the storms accounted for 35% of the total.

    In other words, only seven days of the 96 days of the ski season thus far have produced one-third of the snow…

    Even with last week’s big storm, the snowpack in the Roaring Fork watershed is still a mixed bag. The snowpack at the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River east of Aspen was only 86% of median as of Monday, according to the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service. The Ivanhoe site near the headwaters of the Fryingpan River was at 107% of median. Three sites in the Crystal River basin varied widely, according to NRCS data. McClure Pass was only 91% of median on Monday while North Lost Trail outside of Marble was at 127% and Schofield Pass measured at 128%.

    Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map March 1, 2022 via the NRCS.

    Click the link to read “Drought threatens Rio Grande levels, again” from the El Paso Matters website (Danielle Prokop). Here’s an excerpt:

    Climate experts and irrigation districts are warning that 2022 is looking dry for the Paso del Norte region. New forecasts released Monday from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predict hotter temperatures and low chances for moisture in the Southwest, stemming from the cooling of Pacific waters known as the La Niña weather pattern. That pattern usually prevents a wet winter in the Western United States, exacerbating the region’s 20-year megadrought…

    While the Colorado snowpack improved with snowstorms in January and February, the Rio Grande basin has only seen about 64% of average precipitation. Climate change has already shrunk what is now considered a “normal” annual snowpack. Decades of rising temperatures and fluctuating precipitation have dried out soils, which both prevents waters from flowing into streams and causes more dust, melting snowpacks at faster rates. Snowpack across most of northern New Mexico is between half to 75% of normal right now — with about two months before April’s expected peak levels for snowmelt.

    In the next 2 weeks #LakePowell, the nation’s second largest reservoir, is forecast to dip below 3,525ft above sea level — @LukeRunyon #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    March 2, 2022 Lake Powell Forecast via Colorado Basin River Forecast Center

    Edible Extinction: Why We Need to Revive Global Food Diversity — Yale Environment 360

    Coffea stenophylla. Afrique tropicale de l’Ouest. Jardin botanique de Berlin. By Ji-Elle – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66697024

    Click the link to read the article on the Yale Environment 360 website (Dan Saladino):

    In August 2020, inside the cupping room of a London roastery, a team of botanists and baristas gathered to taste a coffee species that most believed had been lost forever. It was an important moment. Coffee experts had spent years searching in West Africa for the few remaining trees of this species, even issuing “wanted posters” to farmers asking if they had seen it.

    The coffee, named stenophylla, had last been recorded in Sierra Leone in the 1950s, but civil war and widespread deforestation had pushed it to the brink of extinction. In 2018, with the help of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, a small cluster of stenophylla trees were found, which two years later produced just nine grams of beans. The first sips provided hope. “It’s fragrant, fruity, and sweet,” said Aaron Davis, Kew’s senior research leader for Crops and Global Change. “Stenophylla is a coffee with real potential.”

    Since then, seeds have been collected from the surviving trees in Sierra Leone, and 5,000 seedlings are being grown in nurseries. This is significant for us all, not just coffee aficionados. That’s because saving diverse foods, whether plant species or animal breeds, will give us the options we’ll need in an increasingly uncertain future.

    The case of stenophylla is just one of almost 40 such stories I discovered while researching my book, Eating to Extinction: The World’s Rarest Foods and Why We Need to Save Them. In it, I argue that we’re at a pivotal moment in our food history and in a race against time to save diversity. Stenophylla helps illustrates the point. Although there are 130 coffee species so far identified, the world depends on just two, arabica and robusta. Both of these are vulnerable to climate change. Arabica is best suited to temperatures around 19 degrees C (66 degrees F); fluctuations in this can reduce productivity and encourage coffee leaf rust, a devastating fungal disease. Robusta, an inferior-tasting species, fares slightly better, growing at low elevations across much of wet-tropical Africa, but it needs consistent moisture throughout the year.

    Stenophylla, on the other hand, can cope with higher temperatures and possesses greater tolerance to drought, as well as being a great-tasting coffee, one that Victorian botanists even described as “superior” to arabica. If arabica starts to fail, as it did catastrophically across Southern Asia in the 19th century and again in Central America in 2014, millions of coffee farmers will be affected. History will repeat itself: Coffee supply chains will be put at risk, family incomes will fall, and regional economies will be devastated, triggering waves of migration. We need to keep our options open.

    Since the Second World War, we’ve created a highly productive but incredibly fragile food system. Like an investor with a stock portfolio of just a few holdings, we removed an important safety net for our food supplies: diversity. By narrowing the genetic base of the global food system and focusing on highly productive but increasingly uniform crops and animal breeds, we have increased our vulnerability to the impacts of climate change: extremes of temperature, more virulent outbreaks of disease, droughts, and erratic rainfall. Diversity gives us options and provides resilience.

    In less than a century, most of the world has become dependent on a small number of crops for its sustenance. Since the dawn of agriculture (roughly 12,000 years ago) humans have domesticated around 6,000 plant species for food, but now just nine provide the bulk of our calories, and four of these — wheat, corn, rice, and soy — supply roughly two-thirds of that intake. The bottleneck doesn’t end there. Despite the huge genetic variation found within these crops, just a few varieties of each are selected to be grown in vast monocultures.

    One of the Colorado Orange apples collected from an ancient tree in Fremont County, Colorado. (Provided by Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project)

    In Victorian Britain it was possible for people to eat a different apple every day for more than four years and never have the same one twice. Today, supermarkets typically offer four or five varieties, all extremely similar in levels of sweetness and texture. In the United States, at the beginning of the 20th century, farmers grew thousands of different locally adapted varieties of corn. By the early 1970s a small number of hybrids dominated, and all were later found to be susceptible to a disease called leaf blight. Perhaps most famously of all, although there are more than 1,500 different varieties of banana, global trade is dominated by just one, the Cavendish, a cloned fruit grown in vast monocultures and increasingly at risk from a devastating fungal disease, TR4. Where nature creates diversity, the food system crushes it.

    The decline in the diversity of our food, and the fact that so many foods have become endangered, didn’t happen by accident; it is an entirely human-made problem. The biggest loss of crop diversity came in the decades that followed the Second World War when, in an attempt to save millions from starvation, crop scientists found ways to produce grains such as rice and wheat on a phenomenal scale. To grow the extra food the world desperately needed, thousands of traditional varieties were replaced by a small number of new, super-productive ones. The strategy that ensured this — more agrochemicals, more irrigation, plus new genetics — came to be known as the “Green Revolution.”

    Farmers have grown more cereals on roughly the same amount of land since the Green Revolution. OUR WORLD IN DATA

    Because of it, grain production tripled, and between 1970 and 2020 the human population more than doubled. But the danger of creating more uniform crops is that they become vulnerable to catastrophes. A global food system that depends on just a narrow selection of plants is at greater risk of succumbing to diseases, pests, and climate extremes.

    Although the Green Revolution was based on ingenious science, it attempted to oversimplify nature, and this is starting to backfire on us. In creating fields of identical wheat, we abandoned thousands of highly adapted and resilient varieties. Far too often their valuable traits were lost. We’re starting to see our mistake — there was wisdom in what went before. And there are encouraging developments: Wherever you look in the world, you can find people working to save an endangered food and preserving the diversity we all need.

    In India, farmers are looking once again to landrace, or native, varieties of millet. Millet is a nutrient-packed and diverse cereal that sustained generations of people in India. But British colonizers, unaware of millet’s unique nutritional qualities and resilience, replaced it with varieties of bread wheat and cash crops such as indigo. Those millets that survived were mostly relegated to animal feed. The decline of millet continued after Indian independence and was intensified by the Green Revolution as rice cultivation expanded. As a result, the last harvests of many millet varieties were recorded in the early 1970s.

    Pearl millet in the field. Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=393190

    Among these was a millet grown by the Khasi people of Meghalaya, in northeast India. Their millet was called Raishan, an ivory-colored grain cooked into soups and baked into biscuits and flatbreads. Like millions of Indians, the Khasi became dependent on the state-run Public Distribution System, which today provides $2.25 billion worth of subsidized food — mostly rice, wheat, and sugar — to India’s poorest 160 million households. Millet — labor-intensive to harvest and to mill — was the first food they stopped growing themselves. Then, in 2008, in India and in the rest of rice-growing Asia, a huge supply crisis caused by a sequence of bad harvests, disease outbreaks, and low grain reserves hit food systems. Governments responded by banning rice exports, which in turn triggered panic and a massive price spike. In many of the Khasi villages of Meghalaya, one response was to bring back lost millets.

    Another problem facing India is water — or the lack of it. Half of India’s rice crop is irrigated by underground water supplies, and Indian aquifers are emptying at a faster rate than they are being replenished. When a team of scientists — including water experts, plant breeders, and nutritionists — calculated what would happen if large areas of water-intensive rice cultivation were replaced with millets and sorghum, they found benefits on every level: more dietary nutrients, lower greenhouse gas emissions, greater resilience to climate change, reduced water and energy use. All of this could be achieved without losing a single calorie or expanding croplands, they concluded.

    “Despite its many achievements, the Green Revolution locked us into an unsustainable system,” says lead researcher and food systems expert Kyle Davis of the University of Delaware, “and without crop diversity we won’t break out.” This makes endangered varieties of millet, such as Raishan, look like a food of the future, not one to be lost to the past.

    In 2017, an international team of crop scientists modeled the impact of rising temperatures on yields of major crops. Their research showed that “each degree-Celsius increase in global mean temperature would, on average, reduce global yields of wheat by 6 percent, rice by 3.2 percent, maize by 7.4 percent, and soybean by 3.1 percent.” There are varieties of all of these crops, lost to farmers fields in the 20th century but stored away in seed banks, that, just like Raishan millet, possess traits that will give us greater resilience for the future.

    And building resilience in food systems in one part of the world can benefit others, as is the case with efforts to preserve an endangered type of wild vanilla found in central Brazil, important to a community known as the Kalunga.

    Descendants of escaped slaves, the Kalunga created a network of villages in the Cerrado, the immense plateau of savannah, grasslands, and tropical forest that takes up nearly a quarter of Brazil’s land mass. Here, as well as growing rice, beans, and sesame, the Kalunga use wild plants, among them an endangered type of wild vanilla with which they brew infusions and flavor food. Its pods are larger than all other known types of vanilla — it’s more the size of a banana than a bean — and its taste is more intense. The pods are harvested in spring, mostly from along the rivers that wind through the Cerrado’s forests, where it grows among moriche palms. For the Kalunga, going in search of the pods is like mushroom foraging; everyone has a secret patch. But even with this knowledge, finding a pod isn’t guaranteed because vanilla-loving monkeys provide fierce competition.

    Neither the Kalunga nor the monkeys are the cause of the vanilla’s endangered status, however; newly arrived farming businesses and mining companies are clearing or degrading the land and driving the loss of biodiversity.

    The Kalunga can help preserve the Cerrado’s remaining biodiversity, but only if they are provided with economic opportunities to do so. This is where the wild vanilla comes in. “By protecting the Kalunga communities, we can protect the Cerrado,” says Alex Atala, one of Brazil’s most high-profile chefs. “The wild vanilla provides an economic opportunity. The plant can give the Kalunga settlements a future, and the communities can help keep a check on the expansion of soy farming.”

    Projects have been set up to help the Kalunga hand-pollinate the vanilla plants (to increase yields) and to improve their processing techniques. “One family can make $50 a day,” Atala says, “more money than welfare payments or the wages paid by the illegal mines.” Saving the Cerrado isn’t just about protecting the rivers and the forests — its people need to be protected as well, he believes. “They are defenders of biodiversity. Why? Because they depend on it.”

    But then again, we all do. Although it’s less well known than the neighboring Amazon, the Cerrado is one of the richest centers of biodiversity in the world. As one of the world’s major carbon sinks, its preservation is vital in the fight against the climate crisis.

    Transformation of the food system and the need to rethink farming appeared to be low down on the agenda at COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference held in Glasgow last November. Not one of the 10 themed days was dedicated to agriculture or our eating habits. But around the world there are grassroots food heroes and Indigenous activists taking it upon themselves to conserve diversity, save endangered foods, and keep alive knowledge and skills, some for reasons of identity and culture, others to build resilience and increase self-sufficiency. Our broken food system needs to be rebuilt with diversity at its core. This isn’t a call to return to a mythical or halcyon past, but a plea to value and celebrate the ingenuity and legacy of generations of farmers and food producers. It’s up to us to continue their legacy.

    Selection of the 2015 native heirloom maize harvest of the seed library of The Acequia Institute in Viejo San Acacio, CO
    Photo by Devon G. Peña

    #Drought news (March 2, 2022)

    Click the link to read “U.S. Farmers Contend With Drought Conditions Headed Into Planting Season” from The Forbes website (Jim Foerster). Here’s an excerpt:

    My colleague, John Baranick, a senior agricultural meteorologist at DTN, shared his insights on the upcoming planting season highlighting that the drought may have a significant impact on production, particularly in the western half of the country, which includes large areas of wheat, corn and soybean production. While there are still drought conditions in Northwest and throughout the Plains, it’s been fairly stagnant through the winter, leading to some cautious optimism among producers.

    North American Drought Monitor map January 2022

    The current drought conditions in these regions started back in the summer of 2020 which led to last year’s historic drought conditions in the Northern Plains. North Dakota, for example, saw 22 weeks of “exceptional” drought and are currently facing 46 weeks of “extreme” drought — both records for the state. This spring’s current weather pattern suggests that precipitation may be normal to slightly below normal and that could prolong and build the drought conditions…

    In his planting outlook, Baranick added that the next two months look to be on the colder side of normal and that could continue into May, leading to shorter planting windows as there could be late-frost issues with which to contend. “Even if there isn’t a problem getting crops in the ground, soil moisture is going to be an ongoing issue this year for all crops. This has significant economic implications as last year, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas produced over 20 percent of the total corn and soybean crops,” said Baranick.

    The forecast shows some good news for the Central and Southern Plains, including some opportunities in March that favor some precipitation, but the drought is so deep that the precipitation may or may not make for widespread improvements. And April doesn’t seem to be helping with a drier than normal forecast that will continue into the summer…

    Even with areas of increased precipitation this spring and summer, drought will continue to be the single biggest weather concern for U.S. producers going into the 2022 season and will likely have an impact on spring planting across much of the country.

    A rancher digs a boot heel into the dry ground of the Little Bear Ranch near Steamboat Springs, Colo., during the Northwest Colorado Drought Tour on August 11, 2021. Credit: Dean Krakel, special to Fresh Water News.