Supreme Court divided over Navajo Nation water rights claim involving #ColoradoRiver: Major water rights case could have impact across America’s West — ABC News #COriver #aridification

The Colorado River from Navajo Bridge below Lee’s Ferry and Glen Canyon Dam. The proposed Marble Canyon Dam would have been just downstream from here. Jonathan P. Thompson photo.

Click the link to go to the ABC News website (Devin Dwyer). Here’s an excerpt:

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday (March 20. 2023) appeared narrowly divided over whether to allow the Navajo Nation to sue the federal government for help expanding their reservation’s access to water at a time when the precious resource has been in tight supply across the drying American West. After oral arguments that stretched almost two hours, there appeared to be at least five justices supportive of allowing the tribe to purse a claim, but there was no clear consensus from the bench on the scope of the government’s duty to provide water the Navajo seek…

At issue is an 1868 treaty in which the U.S. agreed to provide the Navajo, who had been forced off native lands, with a new “permanent home.” The tribe claims the agreement implicitly requires the government to assess the Navajo’s water needs and develop a plan to meet them for farming and living; the government disputes that it ever agreed to explicitly provide the reservation with a certain amount of water…

A federal district court sided with the government, denying the Navajo Nation’s claim, saying it had failed to identify a “specific, applicable, trust-creating statute or regulation that the government violated.” A federal appeals court reversed, reasoning that the reservation could not exist without adequate water and therefore an obligation to supply it was implied. Justices Neil Gorsuch, Ketanji Brown Jackson, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor all seemed sympathetic to the tribe’s case.

“Clearly, there is a duty to provide some water to this tribe under the treaty, right?” Gorsuch asked Biden administration Assistant to the U.S. Solicitor General Frederick Liu. “Could I bring a good breach-of-contract claim for someone who promised me a permanent home, the right to conduct agriculture and raise animals if it turns out it’s the Sahara Desert?”

“I don’t think you would be able to bring a breach of contract claim,” Liu replied. Gorsuch reacted with disbelief…

Attorney Shay Dvoretzky, representing the tribe, insisted the government has an “affirmative duty to ensure access to water” and that it had broken that promise for generations…An attorney for three states in the case – Arizona, Colorado and Nevada – argued the Navajo Nation should never have been able to bring the claim in the first place, since the Supreme Court has asserted exclusive jurisdiction over disputes involving the Colorado River in a series of decisions and decrees over decades…

They also argue that allowing the tribe to claim expanded water rights over the Colorado would upset pre-existing agreements and ultimately mean less water available to those communities that have come to rely on it. Justice Samuel Alito appeared most concerned about the potential “real-world impacts” of the case on preexisting water allocation agreements.

Navajo Nation. Image via Cronkite News.

Click the link to read “The Supreme Court wrestles with questions over the Navajo Nation’s water rights” on the National Public Radio website (Becky Sullivan). Here’s an excerpt:

…the Navajo Nation says it has not been able to fully represent its own interests in disputes over water. Instead, they say they’ve been blocked in court by the U.S. federal government, which says it represents tribal interests in water disputes. The tribe’s claim stems from federal policies that forcibly relocated tribes and their citizens westward and onto reservations, including the Navajo Treaty of 1868, said Heather Tanana, a law professor at the University of Utah.

“When they established these reservations, that came with the promise that those lands would be permanent homelands for the tribe and their people,” said Tanana, who is a citizen of Navajo Nation. “And I think everyone would agree you can’t have a homeland of any kind without water.”


The U.S. has argued that a broad ruling in favor of the Navajo Nation could force the federal government to conduct an assessment of the tribe’s water needs and build water supply infrastructure. Those responsibilities belong to the tribe, the government says.

“Just as the 1868 treaty didn’t impose on the United States a duty to build roads or bridges, or to harvest timber, or to mine coal, the 1868 treaty didn’t impose on the United States a duty to construct pipelines, pumps or wells to deliver water,” said Frederick Liu, an assistant to the solicitor general, addressing the court.

Several of the court’s conservatives, including Justices Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh, appeared sensitive to that concern during Monday’s hearing, which prompted assurances from Shay Dvoretzky, the attorney arguing on behalf of the Navajo Nation.

“The government hypothesizes a parade of horribles where the government would have to be building pipelines across miles and miles and miles of territory,” [Shay] Dvoretzky said. “We’re not talking about anything like that.”

Urgent #climate action can secure a liveable future for all — #IPCC #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

Click the link to read the release on the IPCC website (Lance Ignon):

INTERLAKEN, Switzerland, March 20, 2023 — There are multiple, feasible and effective options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to human-caused climate change, and they are available now, said scientists in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released today.

“Mainstreaming effective and equitable climate action will not only reduce losses and damages for nature and people, it will also provide wider benefits,” said IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee. “This Synthesis Report underscores the urgency of taking more ambitious action and shows that, if we act now, we can still secure a liveable sustainable future for all.”

In 2018, IPCC highlighted the unprecedented scale of the challenge required to keep warming to 1.5°C. Five years later, that challenge has become even greater due to a continued increase in greenhouse gas emissions. The pace and scale of what has been done so far, and current plans, are insufficient to tackle climate change.

More than a century of burning fossil fuels as well as unequal and unsustainable energy and land use has led to global warming of 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels. This has resulted in more frequent and more intense extreme weather events that have caused increasingly dangerous impacts on nature and people in every region of the world.

Every increment of warming results in rapidly escalating hazards. More intense heatwaves, heavier rainfall and other weather extremes further increase risks for human health and ecosystems. In every region, people are dying from extreme heat. Climate-driven food and water insecurity is expected to increase with increased warming. When the risks combine with other adverse events, such as pandemics or conflicts, they become even more difficult to manage.

Losses and damages in sharp focus

The report, approved during a week-long session in Interlaken, brings in to sharp focus the losses and damages we are already experiencing and will continue into the future, hitting the most vulnerable people and ecosystems especially hard. Taking the right action now could result in the transformational change essential for a sustainable, equitable world.

“Climate justice is crucial because those who have contributed least to climate change are being disproportionately affected,” said Aditi Mukherji, one of the 93 authors of this Synthesis Report, the closing chapter of the Panel’s sixth assessment.

“Almost half of the world’s population lives in regions that are highly vulnerable to climate change. In the last decade, deaths from floods, droughts and storms were 15 times higher in highly vulnerable regions,“ she added.

In this decade, accelerated action to adapt to climate change is essential to close the gap between existing adaptation and what is needed. Meanwhile, keeping warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels requires deep, rapid and sustained greenhouse gas emissions reductions in all sectors. Emissions should be decreasing by now and will need to be cut by almost half by 2030, if warming is to be limited to 1.5°C.

Clear way ahead

The solution lies in climate resilient development. This involves integrating measures to adapt to climate change with actions to reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions in ways that provide wider benefits.

For example: access to clean energy and technologies improves health, especially for women and children; low-carbon electrification, walking, cycling and public transport enhance air quality, improve health, employment opportunities and deliver equity. The economic benefits for people’s health from air quality improvements alone would be roughly the same, or possibly even larger than the costs of reducing or avoiding emissions.

Climate resilient development becomes progressively more challenging with every increment of warming. This is why the choices made in the next few years will play a critical role in deciding our future and that of generations to come.

To be effective, these choices need to be rooted in our diverse values, worldviews and knowledges, including scientific knowledge, Indigenous Knowledge and local knowledge. This approach will facilitate climate resilient development and allow locally appropriate, socially acceptable solutions.

“The greatest gains in wellbeing could come from prioritizing climate risk reduction for low-income and marginalised communities, including people living in informal settlements,” said Christopher Trisos, one of the report’s authors. “Accelerated climate action will only come about if there is a many-fold increase in finance. Insufficient and misaligned finance is holding back progress.”

Enabling sustainable development

There is sufficient global capital to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions if existing barriers are reduced. Increasing finance to climate investments is important to achieve global climate goals. Governments, through public funding and clear signals to investors, are key in reducing these barriers. Investors, central banks and financial regulators can also play their part.

There are tried and tested policy measures that can work to achieve deep emissions reductions and climate resilience if they are scaled up and applied more widely. Political commitment, coordinated policies, international cooperation, ecosystem stewardship and inclusive governance are all important for effective and equitable climate action.

If technology, know-how and suitable policy measures are shared, and adequate finance is made available now, every community can reduce or avoid carbon-intensive consumption. At the same time, with significant investment in adaptation, we can avert rising risks, especially for vulnerable groups and regions.

Climate, ecosystems and society are interconnected. Effective and equitable conservation of approximately 30-50% of the Earth’s land, freshwater and ocean will help ensure a healthy planet. Urban areas offer a global scale opportunity for ambitious climate action that contributes to sustainable development.

Changes in the food sector, electricity, transport, industry, buildings and land-use can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, they can make it easier for people to lead low-carbon lifestyles, which will also improve health and wellbeing. A better understanding of the consequences of overconsumption can help people make more informed choices.

“Transformational changes are more likely to succeed where there is trust, where everyone works together to prioritise risk reduction, and where benefits and burdens are shared equitably,” Lee said. “We live in a diverse world in which everyone has different responsibilities and different opportunities to bring about change. Some can do a lot while others will need support to help them manage the change.”

Temperature-Scale Equivalents 1.1C = 2.0F
1.5C = 2.7F

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