The Colorado River faces a climate change crisis

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Hello and welcome to The Climate 202! If you live in the DC area, we hope you’ve had a glimpse of the double rainbow on Sunday. But first :

The Colorado River faces a climate change crisis

The Colorado River plays a central role in the American West, providing water to more than 40 million people, irrigating 5 million acres of farmland, and providing critical habitat for fish, birds, and rare plants. .

But Colorado’s water demand far exceeds supply in the fast-growing Southwest as a mega-drought fueled by climate change and rising temperatures put unprecedented pressure on the iconic river, The Washington Post Karin Brullard, Matt McClain and Erin Patrick O’Connor report.

Our three colleagues traveled the length of the 1,450-mile waterway, from its start in the Rocky Mountains to its arrival in the Sea of ​​Cortez, to examine how people and places cope with a shrinking lifeline in a larger landscape hot and drier.

The Climate 202 spoke with Post photojournalist McClain about his experience reporting the story — he once fell in the river — and his thoughts on Colorado’s future in a warming world. The following questions and answers have been slightly edited and condensed for clarity:

Climate 202: How did this story come about?

McClain: Last summer, I received a call from [Post photo editor] Olivier Laurent, which gave me the opportunity to work on the story. By then the drought was starting to make headlines and we knew we wanted to use the river as a way to give people a better understanding of complex water issues in the West. This call was in May, and on July 4, I was on my first trip to Rocky Mountain National Park. I ended up doing four story trips for a few weeks at a time.

Climate 202: What was one of your favorite moments of your report?

McClain: When I was in Rocky Mountain National Park in July, I found an area of ​​the river that ran through a grassy meadow with mountains in the background. I thought it was the perfect illustration of the river’s humble origins as a great stream, rather than the massive river that runs through the Grand Canyon.

I kept coming back to the same spot, hoping to capture elk or other wildlife in the photo. And finally, I came across a moose standing in the river. The late afternoon light filtered through the trees, and it was truly a magical moment because as a photographer you are rarely able to capture the perfect image you have in mind.

Climate 202: What was one of the most difficult moments of your report?

McClain: I actually went back to the same spot where I photographed the moose in the middle of winter, and it was covered in snow. So I rented snowshoes and went on a snowshoe excursion that the National Park Service was getting on. Even though I lived five or six years before in Colorado, I had never really snowshoeed. I ended up falling off a bridge into the Colorado River and another tour person had to pull me out. I admit it. [laughs]

Another difficult aspect was the heat. It was over 100 degrees when I was in Las Vegas, and it hit 106 degrees when I was hiking Lake Mead. So I was really worried about dehydration, which was somewhat ironic.

Climate 202: Do you think severe water shortages in the West are getting enough attention in the news cycle from inside the Beltway?

McClain: I think the problems in other parts of the country are really “out of sight, out of mind”. Unless you deal with it daily, you’re not going to pay attention to it, given all that’s going on in the world. But if you live in the West, water is always on your mind in one way or another.

Climate 202: What do you hope readers take away from the article?

McClain: I think this piece should be a wake-up call for other regions that don’t yet experience these conditions. It’s not necessarily a western problem. It could be a glimpse of how other parts of the country will be affected by climate change in the future – potentially even in the near future.

1 in 6 Americans live in areas with significant wildfire risk

About 16% of the nation’s population lives in areas threatened by wildfires, and over the next 30 years that share will rise to 21%, according to a Washington Post analysis of a model the organization built at non profit First Street Foundation, John Muyskens of the Post, Andrew BaTran, Naema Ahmed and Anna Phillips report. Nearly half of all Americans who live in fire-prone areas will reside in the South, and minorities face a disproportionate risk.

For the first time, the analysis details specific locations that are at risk, even those not typically associated with wildfires, which are becoming more severe and frequent due to human-induced climate change.

California has the most risky properties due to its large size and Mediterranean climate. But in the southern half of the country, states like Texas, Florida, Arizona, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, North Carolina and South Carolina are at the forefront. of a growing problem. And by 2052, about 44% of all Native Americans will live in areas with significant wildfire risk. Nearly 1 in 4 Hispanics will live with significant probability.

While President Biden approved nearly $3.5 billion for communities to prepare for disasters related to extreme weather and climate change, only about 4% of counties facing fire risk in this analysis requested funding from mitigation of forest fires with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

17 states urge EPA to rescind California’s ability to set its own clean car rules

Republican attorneys general from 17 states are calling on the United States Court of Appeals for the DC circuit revoke the Environmental Protection Agencythe decision to allow California to set its own climate regulations for cars, often stricter than federal standards, Nathan Solis reports for the Los Angeles Times.

The waiver, exclusive to California, was originally withdrawn under the Trump administration but reinstated by President Biden in March. The joint states petition argues that the EPA’s decision would require all states to adopt the Golden State’s stricter restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks under the Clean Air Act.

“The law simply leaves California with a portion of its sovereign authority that Congress takes away from all other states,” the West Virginia attorney general said. patrick morsey said in a statement.

Senator Capito and his GOP colleagues press Biden on the social cost of carbon

On Friday, a group of Republican senators urged the Biden administration to release information about the Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases and how it assesses the balance of carbon emissions when defining national policies.

In a letterlegislators, led by Senator Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, asked the working group to publish records of its meetings and other activities. It follows a November letter challenge the task force’s recommendations for decision-making, budgeting and procurement.

In recent months, lawmakers have written, the Environmental Protection Agency relied on climate metrics to oppose new gas pipelines, while Interior Department used it to determine which areas to make available for oil and gas lease sales.

Monday: the Internal Rules Committee will meet to consider pending bills, including the Consumer Fuel Price Prevention Act, which would empower the Federal Trade Commission to determine if the price of gasoline is manipulated by the oil companies.

Tuesday: the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will hold a hearing on strengthening critical energy and mining partnerships between the United States and Canada to address energy security and climate change.

  • the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change will meet to discuss President Bidenthe proposed budget for the Environmental Protection Agency for fiscal year 2023, with testimony from the EPA Administrator Michael Regan.
  • the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation will hold a hearing on efforts to address climate change at airports across the country.

Wednesday: the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will meet to consider Biden’s proposed budget for the Fish and Wildlife Service for the 2023 financial year, with the testimony of the director of FWS martha williams.

  • the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies will also meet to discuss the EPA’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2023.
  • the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis will hold a hearing on how the country can build an “affordable and resilient” food supply chain.
  • National Park Service Director Charles Sams III and controller Jessica Bowon will testify before the House Appropriations Committee on Biden’s budget request for the service.

Thusday: the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will hear testimony from the Home Secretary Deb Haaland on the President’s budget request for the interior.

Friday: the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Technology will hold a hearing titled “Building a Workforce to Navigate the Future of Electric Vehicles”.