Day: November 24, 2022
A century ago in the #ColoradoRiver Compact: Wordsmithing details as time runs short — InkStain @jfleck @R_EricKuhn #COriver #CRWUA2022
Click the link to read the article on the InkStain website (Eric Kuhn and John Fleck):
It was snowing like crazy at Bishop’s Lodge outside Santa Fe as the Colorado River Commission Chairman Herbert Hoover called the 24th meeting to order at 9:45 AM on the morning of Nov. 23, 1922. The Commission had only about 30 hours left before its Friday afternoon target for signing the compact and the “punch list” was long. Conceptually, the commissioners agreed on all of the compact’s major provisions, but drafting challenges remained.
They began with a discussion of “domestic.” For the purposes of Articles III (e) and IV, rather than include a long list of water uses like mining, milling, manufacturing, and so on, they decided to define a broad group of uses as “domestic.” They could agree on what it didn’t include – it didn’t include agricultural, power generation, and navigation, so everything else would be domestic. But it wasn’t that simple. What if a mine had its own hydroelectric power plant? Was that a mining or a power generation purpose? They ended up agreeing to “The term ‘domestic use’ shall include the use of water for household, stock, municipal, mining, milling, industrial, and other like purposes, but shall exclude the generation of electrical power.”
The discussion then turned to Article III(d). Overnight Winfield Norviel had changed his mind. He was now OK with dropping the four million acre-feet minimum annual Lee Ferry flow requirement. It was one of many compromises Norviel had made during the negotiations, and it wouldn’t be his last.
The Commission then had a long and difficult conversation about Article IV, the priority of uses. The article had three paragraphs
- IV(a) was a statement that the Colorado River was no longer navigable, but with language added that if Congress did not agree, the “the other provisions of this compact shall nevertheless remain binding.”
- IV(b) made it clear power generation was a legal use but made it subservient to agricultural and domestic uses.
- IV(c) stated that this article did not apply to the internal appropriation, use, and distribution of water within a state.
Utah’s R.E. Caldwell was opposed to the provision protecting the compact if Congress didn’t accept the navigation clause. Although he understood the reason Hoover suggested including the provision, his concern was including the language would be giving Congress the opportunity to step in and interfere with water projects within states. Ultimately, Caldwell agreed that, despite his objections, he would not vote against “the pact.”
Similarly, Colorado’s Delph Carpenter wanted to expand paragraph IV©, but ultimately agreed to only minor wording changes.
By the end of the 24th meeting, which lasted much of the day, their punch list has been whittled down to several minor wording changes and paragraph VIII. Hoover adjourned the meeting at 3 PM but asked the drafting committee to reconvene immediately. The 25th meeting would convene at the Chairman’s call after the drafting committee had done its work.
Hoover called the 25th meeting for 7:30 PM that evening. The Commission then went through a list of editing changes. Importantly, the Commission finally reached agreement on Article I, the purpose of the compact:
Turning to Article VIII, the commissioners and their advisors considered and debated 16 drafts before calling it a night without reaching a final agreement on the language.
They would have to meet again on Friday morning. There was more snow in the forecast.
The #ColoradoRiver Compact turns 100 years old. Is it still working? — KUNC #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022
Click the link to read the article on the KUNC website (Luke Runyon). Here’s an excerpt:
On a chilly fall day, Eric Kuhn walked along a gravel path above the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. The former head of the Colorado River District, a water agency based on the state’s Western Slope, paused where one of its tributaries, the Roaring Fork, spilled into the river, creating a two-tone stream at the confluence, of beige and dark brown.
“About a third of the water that originates in the Colorado River can be accounted for right at this spot,” Kuhn said. The river is fed by melting snow which gathers each winter on the high mountain peaks of the southern Rocky Mountains. “When I think of rivers, I think of, where’s the water coming from and where’s it going?” Kuhn said. “And what’s happened to this river over the last 100 years?”
In 2021 Kuhn co-authored “Science Be Dammed” with his colleague John Fleck, a water policy professor at the University of New Mexico. The book is a detailed examination of how the river’s foundational agreement — the Colorado River Compact — came together a century ago.
The legal document turns 100 years old this November. The agreement among seven western states to manage the river’s waters was groundbreaking for its time. But the anniversary of its signing, on Nov. 24 1922, comes as the river is facing arguably its most-pressing crisis. Water supplies are shrinking due to climate change-induced warming. Demands for water have yet to shrink to match the drier conditions. The river’s largest reservoirs are declining to record lows, and forecast to drop further. And that fact is prompting those grappling with the shrinking river to ask: What benefit is the Colorado River Compact still giving the region’s water users?
The river’s gap between supply and demand was baked in from the start, said Kathy Jacobs, a water policy professor at the University of Arizona. Since the Colorado River Compact was signed, a complex legal scaffolding of agreements, court decrees and laws has been built on top of it. But it remains the foundation of the river’s management…Heather Tanana, a University of Utah law professor and citizen of the Navajo Nation, said the compact also represents how Indigenous people and their interests have been excluded from river management over time.
Navajo Dam operations update (November 23, 2022): Bumping releases to 350 cfs #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022
From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):
In response to falling flows in the critical habitat reach, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled an increase in the release from Navajo Dam from 300 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 350 cfs for today, November 23rd, at 4:00 PM.
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). 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.
Think big! #Colorado #water projects on tap for $800M to $1.2B in federal money — @WaterEdCO
Click the link to read the article on the Water Education Colorado website (Thy Anh Vo):
Since 1962, people in Colorado’s Lower Arkansas Valley have heard talks of a pipeline that would bring them clean drinking water from Pueblo Reservoir upstream.
The 103-mile Arkansas Valley Conduit promises to be a long-term source of clean water for the region, where many people rely on poor-tasting and contaminated well water. The project was planned as part of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, but for decades, the pipeline was too expensive for the small towns to afford, $600 million by today’s estimates.
If the project stays on schedule, the pipeline will reach its easternmost destination, the town of Lamar, Colorado, in 2035.
But with $60 million in new funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, officials are hoping to cut the project’s remaining 13-year timeline in half — and ensure steady access to clean water for more than 50,000 people living east of Pueblo along the Arkansas River.
“People have waited 60 years to build this,” says Chris Woodka, a spokesperson for the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has made it entirely feasible that we could do this in a much shorter time.”
Also known as the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, the 2021 law authorizes more than $550 billion in new investment that will be spread across the nation, including more than $50 billion for clean water programs and another $8.5 billion for Western water needs. The historic federal investment comes as Colorado and other Western states face growing pressures from climate change, drought and a regional crisis along the Colorado River.
Colorado could receive between $800 million and $1.2 billion for water projects alone, according to an early estimate from Gov. Jared Polis’ budget office. A companion bill that passed in August 2022, the Inflation Reduction Act, dedicates another $4 billion for drought resiliency in Western states.
The funding won’t resolve the drought. But the law is an opportunity to fund critical repairs on neglected water systems, many of which were built at the turn of the century.
Amy Moyer, director of strategic partnerships at the Colorado River District, hopes it will inspire water managers and public servants, who are used to engineering workarounds and funding projects piecemeal, to be more ambitious.
“It’s really giving [people] the license to think big,” Moyer says. The river district is giving grants to entities in its 15-county area to conduct studies and develop competitive applications for the federal money. “Projects that were previously unachievable because of a huge financial cost might be back on the table.”
How much money Colorado ultimately gets, however, will depend on efforts by state agencies, regional boards and advocacy groups to help communities, especially small and rural areas, navigate funding programs and pull together competitive applications. Entities eligible for funds include cities and towns, special districts, tribes, water suppliers, and nonprofit cooperative associations like mutual ditch companies.
“We have so many small water users and water providers that are maxed out by just trying to keep their systems running,” says Moyer, whose team has been helping people wade through federal programs to match their projects to the right opportunity.
Largest investment ever
The $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is the largest single federal investment in the nation’s water infrastructure ever, with billions available for programs aimed at improving clean water access, fixing century-old facilities and dams, and investing in the health of watersheds and forests.
Most of the one-time dollars will flow through longstanding programs. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s WaterSMART program, which invests in projects that improve water efficiency, will get $400 million through the BIL. Another Reclamation program for Water Storage, Groundwater Storage and Conveyance Projects will get $1.15 billion, almost twice the total that the program received between 2016 and 2021.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, meanwhile, will receive $50.4 billion for drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure improvements, including $15 billion to replace lead service lines. States will receive those dollars through their state revolving funds, programs that provide low-interest loans and use the money that borrowers pay back, through interest and principal, to provide additional future funding.
Colorado’s revolving funds — administered jointly by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, and the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority — will get $680 million over the next five years, or nearly three times usual annual funding levels.
The money won’t make up for decades of neglect of the country’s water infrastructure; a 2020 report by the American Society of Civil Engineers, for example, estimated that the U.S. needs to invest $109 billion each year over the next two decades to catch up. The EPA’s own estimate calls for more than $744 billion in capital investments over that time period to bring communities into compliance with federal water quality and safety standards.
It’s still a “tremendous opportunity” for utilities to make a serious dent in their deferred infrastructure needs, says Tommy Holmes, legislative director for the American Water Works Association.
“We’ve got to use this money effectively if we want to see any future federal investments on a big scale,” says Holmes.
Other programs are getting funded for the very first time. Reclamation’s aging infrastructure account, created in 2009 to help fund operations and maintenance work at Reclamation facilities, has until now never received any money. Most of the agency’s facilities are between 60 and 100 years old. BIL allocates $3.2 billion to that account, or 39% of Reclamation’s total funding under the law.
The law also sets aside $1 billion for water initiatives in rural communities nationwide.
Tribal communities will receive $3.5 billion through the Indian Health Service, a recognition of the historical dearth of funding for tribal water infrastructure. Nearly 48% of tribal homes do not have access to clean drinking water or basic sanitation, according to a 2021 report from the Water and Tribes Initiative, with Native American families 19 times more likely than white households to lack indoor plumbing.
The Southern Ute Indian Tribe has been awarded more than $1.1 million in BIL dollars for two wastewater projects, including a project to repair damaged sewage pipes and improve service to more than 1,000 homes. Another $1 million will help improve drinking water service and water pressure to more than 152 homes in Towaoc, the headquarters of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe in southern Colorado.
The $3.5 billion represents the entire construction funding gap identified by IHS to bring tribal communities to federal standards and tackle a backlog of critical clean water projects.
“This is the first time in history that gap has been filled with funding,” says water policy expert Anne Castle, who is co-leader of Universal Access to Clean Water for Tribal Communities, a project of the Water and Tribes Initiative. “I don’t want to suggest it is a complete eradication of the problem of lack of access to water and sanitation in Indian country, but it is a huge forward step.”
Pressure to act
Groups will need to act relatively quickly to pull together applications for the federal funding opportunity, which can take months to years to prepare.
At the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association, general manager Steve Pope is used to navigating federal requirements. The association manages a federally owned system that diverts water from the Gunnison Basin to over 76,000 acres of land in Montrose and Delta counties.
The association hired a consultant to write a grant for a $6 million project to line a one-mile section of canal. Planning on any of its bigger pursuits, which range from $25 to $30 million, are still eight or nine months away from the grant-writing stage, a process that can cost tens of thousands of dollars, Pope says.
“We’re probably going to get one crack at it,” says Pope. “You really have to have your ducks in a row.”
Small organizations with limited capacity may decide it’s not worth the work, says Sonja Chavez, general manager of the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District. Many projects need engineering work or a feasibility study to make their application competitive. To go after federal dollars, groups also need to secure state and local matching funds.
“For me to put in the effort to go after federal funds, I probably wouldn’t do it unless I had a significant project to go after,” says Chavez.
The advantage will go to “shovel-ready” projects that have already been studied and planned. Colorado’s revolving funds, for example, have so far awarded BIL-funded loans to four projects, all of which have been in development for years.
“There’s a lot of pressure to get this money out the door as quickly as possible,” says Alex Funk, director of water and senior counsel for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, which is convening policy groups to strategize and support environmentally sustainable projects funded by the law.
A slow roll-out
Although the legislation was passed in November 2021, the money has been slow to roll out. Reclamation and state revolving funds will award funding on a rolling basis over the next five years, meaning organizations that aren’t yet ready to apply can try for a later round. Many programs have not released any funds, while some new programs have yet to release the criteria for applications.
Unlike the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act, which requires public agencies to spend all of their dollars by the end of 2026, there’s no uniform deadline for when organizations must spend their BIL funds.
The state revolving funds have one year to obligate the BIL dollars they receive each year and another two years to spend them, says Keith McLaughlin, executive director of the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority (CWRPDA), which serves as the banker for Colorado’s revolving funds.
In Northwest Colorado, the 126-year-old Maybell Ditch still delivers water from the Yampa River to 18 agricultural producers. Adjusting the headgates – which were built in the 1960s and are now broken – requires a one-mile hike into the canyon and the effort of a few people, says Mike Camblin, a rancher and volunteer manager of the Maybell Irrigation District.
Now with a $1.92 million BIL grant, the district hopes to begin construction next year on a project to build an access road, replace the headgates with an automated system, and to reconstruct portions of the ditch to address low-flow areas and large debris that make it impassable for boaters and too shallow and warm for fish.
The district and its partners worked for nearly five years to raise money for the project, get support in the community and from the Moffatt County Board of County Commissioners, and secure a grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board.
All that helped the project’s application to Reclamation’s WaterSMART Grants program, says Diana Lane, sustainable food and water program director at The Nature Conservancy, the project’s fiscal partner. The application criteria awards points for projects that build on state or local planning efforts.
Amid a nationwide labor shortage, finding the skilled workers and planners to move projects forward expediently will be challenging.
Many state and local governments are still trying to fill positions that opened up months ago. And while a large water utility or municipality has staff dedicated to grant writing or to support project development, smaller organizations often need to hire a consultant to write a grant, conduct a study, or do engineering work.
That kind of expertise can be hard to come by, especially in rural Colorado communities.
At the Colorado Agricultural Water Alliance, executive director Greg Peterson is focused on a watershed program under the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which received $918 million in BIL funding, that could help irrigators and agricultural users address issues like soil erosion and flood mitigation. Local entities only have to put up a quarter of the costs of a project and can receive up to $25 million.
Peterson is working with eight different communities on applications for the program. He struggled to find a Colorado expert with experience applying to the fund and ended up reaching out to a group in Oregon for help.
“If we didn’t have them, we wouldn’t go after [the money] at all, probably,” he says.
State, regional groups step up
Early rounds of BIL grants went to states like Arizona and California that had more “shovel-ready” projects to put forward, says Moyer.
This year, officials are hoping money set aside by state lawmakers will give Colorado a competitive edge and help communities that don’t have the capacity to go after grants on their own.
“We’ve been really impressed with Colorado leadership in terms of recognizing that you have to work for these funds,” says Funk. “I think Colorado is actually a big competitor for this funding and could be a model for other states.”
The governor’s office estimates that Colorado needs $1 billion in local or state matching funds to successfully secure $4.1 to $7.1 billion in federal infrastructure dollars. Most federal programs require a local funding contribution, with some as high as 75%.
In addition to the $80 million in state matching funds set aside by state lawmakers, the state legislature also set aside $5 million for the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to provide technical assistance for groups going after the dollars. Half of that will be available as direct grants for agencies to hire their own contractors, while the other half will pay for in-house contractors at CWCB who will provide assistance.
State agencies are also staffing up to conduct outreach about opportunities under the BIL. The Department of Local Affairs and Office of Recovery are hosting roundtables and webinars to answer questions from prospective applicants. Each of the state’s regional councils of government will receive funding to hire a coordinator to help local groups navigate federal and state programs.
“We want to make sure communities have the opportunity to say yes or no to these funding opportunities – we don’t want a community to say, ‘I wasn’t aware,’” says Meredith Marshall, infrastructure coordinator at the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.
This article first appeared in Water Education Colorado’s Fall 2022 issue of Headwaters Magazine.
Fresh Water News is an independent, nonpartisan news initiative of Water Education Colorado. WEco is funded by multiple donors. Our editorial policy and donor list can be viewed at wateredco.org.
Thy Anh Vo is a freelance journalist based in Colorado. She’s passionate about journalism that shows people how government works and how to hold it accountable. Thy has reported for The Colorado Sun, ProPublica, The Mercury News in San Jose, and Voice of OC.
Indy Q&A: #Nevada Supreme Court Justice Hardesty on training judges to hear #water cases — The Nevada Independent #CRWUA2022
Click the link to read the article on Nevada’s only statewide nonprofit newsroom The Nevada Independent (Daniel Rothberg):
Over the past few years, several consequential water cases have landed in front of the Nevada Supreme Court. Many of these cases are complex, involving long-running disputes with deep histories, conflicting interests and contested interpretations of a century-old statutory framework.
And they put the judiciary at the forefront of some of Nevada’s most pressing water issues.
Although many water issues are pronounced in Nevada, as the driest state in the country, they are by no means exclusive to it. Across the West, water is over-appropriated — there are more legal rights to use water than there is water to go around. On top of that, the drought, worsened by a changing climate, has triggered further shortages in many watersheds. When conflicts do arise over who gets water, when and on what terms, it’s often left to the courts to step in.
Some states have turned to water courts. Other states have looked at training judges. Last year, the Supreme Court formed a formal commission to study how Nevada can improve its process for moving water disputes through the courts in a more timely manner. The commission, chaired by Justice James Hardesty, includes district court judges as well as representatives from Native American tribes, urban water utilities, rural counties, irrigation districts, mining and agriculture.
The commission, Hardesty said, has focused on two recommendations: creating an educational curriculum for lower court judges, and piloting a program to assign cases to trained judges.
Exactly how that would work is something the commission is still working on through the end of this year. But in general, trained judges would comprise something of an informal water court, a system whereby water disputes would go before a District Court judge with training in that area.
Last week, The Nevada Independent spoke with Hardesty about the commission’s work and what he has learned presiding over water cases during his nearly two decades as a Supreme Court justice.
Unlike other states, Hardesty said Nevada lacked a curriculum to train District Court judges in hearing water cases: “Throughout the West Coast, states have undertaken studies about the best way to process cases that involve pretty complex areas of law. And from those studies, at least four states have initiated — either by rule or by statute — certain requirements for the education of judges who hear the cases and for the processing of those cases.”
“And this all comes at a time when water resources are becoming scarcer, water rights are over-appropriated and legal battles have occurred between a variety of groups trying to compete for access and priority to water. In our state, there was, at least up until the commission was formed, no formal education for a District Court judge to take that would assist in their review of our water law and the complex hydrological and geological challenges that surround it. The commission was initiated for the purpose of trying to determine how the judiciary should proceed in handling these cases.”
Although water cases are not the largest category of cases on the judiciary’s docket, Hardesty noted that the cases tend to be complex and can have significant implications for how water law is interpreted: “All of these cases have an enormous record of historical information and hydrological information, geological information and engineering studies that make them present as difficult and complex as many of the construction defect cases were in just the last decade and a half. So I thought it was important that our state undertake a study, since most of the law that is being developed is coming out of the judicial branch.”
“We are dealing with a very old water law statute that has not been modified very many times. And as a consequence, there are some ambiguities and some uncertainties, and that instability in the water law is not healthy for an economy, like in our state, that is so dependent on a declining resource.”
In the coming weeks, several District Court judges will receive additional training at an upcoming National Judicial College conference in New Mexico. But Hardesty said it would be important for the judges to acquire specific education on Nevada law, including at an upcoming judicial conference in April: “I think this process will accelerate the capability of the judges to handle these cases, [improve] their expertise in this area and hopefully, from my standpoint, enable us to process them more quickly in the judicial system.”
“These water law cases can take a long time, and a lot of that is wading through a record, not all of which is really relevant to the issues in front of the judge. But you have to go through the whole record. And I think this will really help us accelerate decisions in this area and help provide some stability to the water law area in our state and fill in those gaps that exist in some of our statutes.”
As for those gaps in Nevada water law, reviewing statutory language was not a part of the commission’s mandate, and Hardesty said it would be difficult to do, given the many interests involved and the short length of legislative sessions. But he said there is an area where the Legislature can act without changing the law. It can increase funding for the office of the State Engineer, Nevada’s top water regulator: “I don’t think there’s any question that one can benefit from updating statutory direction. The challenge, though, is you’ve got a lot of competing interests, and the Legislature has such a limited amount of time… I think it would be really an enormous challenge to get something that a large number of stakeholders could get behind in such a short amount of time as a 120-day legislative session.”
“Our commission has been in business for more than a year and a half, at least. And we’re just talking about the kinds of education [needed for judges] and how to structure the judicial system to handle these cases. When you identify so-called gaps within the statute, that’s another challenge.”
“Now there is an area, frankly, that I hope that the Legislature will look at and doesn’t require legislative change. The state engineer’s office is seriously underfunded. That fact alone is causing enormous delays [for people who are] seeking water rights, trying to perfect the water, trying to make appropriations. And that really harms the economy. I think it’s imperative that the Legislature dedicate some resources to strengthen the capacity of the state engineer to hire additional engineers, to hire additional officers and experts and conduct more hearings.”
The process of creating a water law curriculum for judges and assigning cases to trained judges would be set through the Supreme Court’s rulemaking process: “Our commission is not going to request a statutory change. We believe that the state will be more nimble if the judiciary, which constitutionally has the authority to assign cases and direct the process of cases anyway, develops this process by rule. And if in fact some modifications are needed…that can be done pretty quickly by a ruling from the Supreme Court, as opposed to waiting every two years for the Legislature to convene and then trying to study that in a short legislative session.”
“And particularly for a pilot program, we want to see how this works in Nevada. All of the commissioners polled said ‘Yes, at least a two-year pilot program.’ So we [can] get a good understanding of the data and the statistics, the assignments, the processing and the timing of cases. Is this something that would have been helpful years ago? Absolutely. But you have to start somewhere. And I think it’s a major step forward for the state.”
Over the past several years, the Supreme Court has issued important rulings in several areas of water law. In 2020, the court weighed in on a dispute over the Walker River and the public trust doctrine, a government’s obligation to protect natural resources for the public and future generations. And this year, in an opinion by Hardesty, the court upheld a locally approved groundwater plan that deviated from the principles that guide Western water law. Both cases were closely watched: “I think those cases and some other recent ones, and some other cases pending, frankly, underscore some of the uncertainties that exist in our water statutes and underscore the conflicting interests that exist over access to water and the utilization of water. They also underscore, I might add, just how voluminous the records are and how long it takes to get these cases to us and to get them decided.”
“I believe that the decisions we have made have provided guidance in those areas. But obviously there are other areas where judicial guidance would be helpful… I wish I had my notes in front of me, but I gave a speech to the Western Regional Water Conference, which is a conference of water law experts in the Western states. And I cataloged the number of Supreme Court decisions that have existed since the adoption of our water statute… Without question, the highest number of Supreme Court decisions on this topic have existed within the last decade as compared to all of the decades preceding 2010…”
“We’re anticipating, as a judicial system, an increase in the number of those discrete but important legal questions. So we need to get our judges ready and prepared to address this, and to address them as timely and as quickly as possible. On the executive branch side, as I mentioned earlier, more money to an important agency is not a legislative change. That’s just a recognition that that agency should have priority because it’s going to be the agency that’s responsible for Nevada’s water.”
Daniel Rothberg is a staff reporter covering water, climate change and public land.
New report, Nature-Based Solutions, published for the National #Climate Task Force — NOAA #ActOnClimate
Click the link to read the article on the NOAA website (Genie Bey):
At COP27 in Egypt, the Biden-Harris Administration released the Nature-Based Solutions Roadmap, an outline of strategic recommendations to put America on a path that will unlock the full potential of nature-based solutions to address climate change, nature loss, and inequity. This marks the first time the U.S. has developed a strategy to scale up nature-based solutions. The report was developed in response to President Biden’s Executive Order 14072, which recognizes the importance of forests and other nature-based solutions to tackle the climate crisis and strengthen communities and local economies. Led by the Council on Environmental Quality, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the National Climate Advisor, the report was developed in consultation with numerous agencies, and identifies key opportunities for greater deployment of nature-based solutions across the Federal government.
The Roadmap calls on expanding the use of nature-based solutions and outlines five strategic areas of focus for the federal government: (1) updating policies, (2) unlocking funding, (3) leading with federal facilities and assets, (4) training the nature-based solutions workforce, and (5) prioritizing research, innovation, knowledge, and adaptive learning that will advance nature-based solutions. Genie Bey, Zac Cannizzo, Chelsea Combest-Friedman, Bhaskar Submaranian, and Lisa Vaughan represented NOAA’s Climate Program Office as contributors to this report and the accompanying resource guide.
Access the White House Fact Sheet here »
Access the NBS Roadmap Report here »
Access the NBS Resource Guide here »
Read more about nature-based solutions at COP27 here »
For more information, contact Genie Bey.
After COP27, all signs point to world blowing past the 1.5C degrees #GlobalWarming limit – here’s what we can still do about it — The Conversation #ActOnClimate
Peter Schlosser, Arizona State University
The world could still, theoretically, meet its goal of keeping global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius, a level many scientists consider a dangerous threshold. Realistically, that’s unlikely to happen.
Part of the problem was evident at COP27, the United Nations climate conference in Egypt.
While nations’ climate negotiators were successfully fighting to “keep 1.5 alive” as the global goal in the official agreement, reached Nov. 20, 2022, some of their countries were negotiating new fossil fuel deals, driven in part by the global energy crisis. Any expansion of fossil fuels – the primary driver of climate change – makes keeping warming under 1.5 C (2.7 Fahrenheit) compared to pre-industrial times much harder.
Attempts at the climate talks to get all countries to agree to phase out coal, oil, natural gas and all fossil fuel subsidies failed. And countries have done little to strengthen their commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the past year.
There have been positive moves, including advances in technology, falling prices for renewable energy and countries committing to cut their methane emissions.
But all signs now point toward a scenario in which the world will overshoot the 1.5 C limit, likely by a large amount. The World Meteorological Organization estimates global temperatures have a 50-50 chance of reaching 1.5C of warming, at least temporarily, in the next five years.
That doesn’t mean humanity can just give up.
Why 1.5 degrees?
During the last quarter of the 20th century, climate change due to human activities became an issue of survival for the future of life on the planet. Since at least the 1980s, scientific evidence for global warming has been increasingly firm , and scientists have established limits of global warming that cannot be exceeded to avoid moving from a global climate crisis to a planetary-scale climate catastrophe.
There is consensus among climate scientists, myself included, that 1.5 C of global warming is a threshold beyond which humankind would dangerously interfere with the climate system. https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/temperature-anomaly?time=earliest..latest
We know from the reconstruction of historical climate records that, over the past 12,000 years, life was able to thrive on Earth at a global annual average temperature of around 14 C (57 F). As one would expect from the behavior of a complex system, the temperatures varied, but they never warmed by more than about 1.5 C during this relatively stable climate regime.
Today, with the world 1.2 C warmer than pre-industrial times, people are already experiencing the effects of climate change in more locations, more forms and at higher frequencies and amplitudes.
Climate model projections clearly show that warming beyond 1.5 C will dramatically increase the risk of extreme weather events, more frequent wildfires with higher intensity, sea level rise, and changes in flood and drought patterns with implications for food systems collapse, among other adverse impacts. And there can be abrupt transitions, the impacts of which will result in major challenges on local to global scales. https://www.youtube.com/embed/MR6-sgRqW0k?wmode=transparent&start=0 Tipping points: Warmer ocean water is contributing to the collapse of the Thwaites Glacier, a major contributor to sea level rise with global consequences.
Steep reductions and negative emissions
Meeting the 1.5 goal at this point will require steep reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, but that alone isn’t enough. It will also require “negative emissions” to reduce the concentration of carbon dioxide that human activities have already put into the atmosphere.
Carbon dioxide lingers in the atmosphere for decades to centuries, so just stopping emissions doesn’t stop its warming effect. Technology exists that can pull carbon dioxide out of the air and lock it away. It’s still only operating at a very small scale, but corporate agreements like Microsoft’s 10-year commitment to pay for carbon removed could help scale it up.
A report in 2018 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change determined that meeting the 1.5 C goal would require cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 50% globally by 2030 – plus significant negative emissions from both technology and natural sources by 2050 up to about half of present-day emissions.
Can we still hold warming to 1.5 C?
Since the Paris climate agreement was signed in 2015, countries have made some progress in their pledges to reduce emissions, but at a pace that is way too slow to keep warming below 1.5 C. Carbon dioxide emissions are still rising, as are carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere.
A recent report by the United Nations Environment Program highlights the shortfalls. The world is on track to produce 58 gigatons of carbon dioxide-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 – more than twice where it should be for the path to 1.5 C. The result would be an average global temperature increase of 2.7 C (4.9 F) in this century, nearly double the 1.5 C target.
Given the gap between countries’ actual commitments and the emissions cuts required to keep temperatures to 1.5 C, it appears practically impossible to stay within the 1.5 C goal.
Global emissions aren’t close to plateauing, and with the amount of carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere, it is very likely that the world will reach the 1.5 C warming level within the next five to 10 years.
How large the overshoot will be and for how long it will exist critically hinges on accelerating emissions cuts and scaling up negative emissions solutions, including carbon capture technology.
At this point, nothing short of an extraordinary and unprecedented effort to cut emissions will save the 1.5 C goal. We know what can be done – the question is whether people are ready for a radical and immediate change of the actions that lead to climate change, primarily a transformation away from a fossil fuel-based energy system.
Peter Schlosser, Vice President and Vice Provost of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory, Arizona State University
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.