First of all, let’s stop calling it a drought. A drought involves a temporary situation that will eventually subside as the weather changes.
The term “desertification” comes closest to the description of the process underway in the southwest today. It is a type of land degradation in which fertile land loses its biological productivity and becomes a desert. The Southwest is one of the fastest warming regions in the United States. Just as Florida at lower elevations has more to lose from rising sea levels than other states, the Southwest has more to lose from above-average temperatures and shortages of water. water. We are stuck in the most extensive and intense “drought”, with long-term forecasts calling for an escalation of the situation. Climate change is the main cause, raising temperatures and increasing the loss of water to the atmosphere.
In the early stages of a traditional drought, the planting of crops is postponed, germination is delayed, producers begin to feed their livestock supplementally, hay cutting is reduced, and grass fires multiply. As dry conditions worsen, row and forage crops fail, the first sales of livestock begin, dust storms occur and the frequency of forest fires increases. As exceptional and widespread drought conditions prevail, rangelands dry up, plantations halt, and the seafood, forestry, tourism and agriculture sectors suffer significant financial losses. The danger of forest fires is serious during this stage.
Seems familiar? The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration reports that “Drought is the second most common type of billion dollar weather disaster in the past three decades, overtaken only by tropical storms / hurricanes.”
In addition to destroying our environment, droughts also affect the physical and emotional health and safety of people. As water shortages decrease our river flows and reservoir levels, the levels of depression and anxiety about our economic losses increase. The conditions are ripe for conflict. There are higher incidences of heat stroke and even loss of life in severe droughts.
Drought response and mitigation efforts vary from state to state, as do water laws. No federal agency is in charge of water or drought policy. NOAA says: “Due to a drought, government agencies at all levels as well as private sector companies may be forced to make unprecedented and sometimes controversial decisions regarding water discharges, the distribution of funds and others. disaster and household water use rules.
None of these efforts address the root cause of an ever-warming climate – essentially, we’re putting bandages on a spouting arterial wound. Only by addressing the root cause – climate change – by lowering heat-trapping carbon in the atmosphere can we prevent desertification in the Southwest. Our country is finally acting. President Joe Biden has pledged to halve U.S. emissions by 2030, and carbon pricing is the least painful way to get there.
Adding a price on carbon pollution creates a national economic strategy that will spur competitive markets to produce the most efficient and environmentally friendly solutions. It works by imposing a fee on carbon pollution, and returns those fees to American households in the form of a monthly dividend check, like a tax return. Instead of regulatory measures, market-based mechanisms like carbon pricing are needed to ensure reliability and competitiveness in the market.
The recent International Energy Agency report, ‘Net Zero by 2050,’ states, ‘The world has a viable path to build a global energy sector with net zero emissions by 2050, but it is narrow and requires an unprecedented transformation in the way energy is produced, transported and used around the world. This plan relies heavily on carbon pricing to ensure it is people-centered and inclusive, and ensures affordable energy for all.
A carbon pricing bill currently in Congress, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (HR2307), would match the carbon price suggested by the IEA. Read it for yourself and share your thoughts with Congress.
Let’s stop treating the symptoms of this disease and start curing the disease itself.
Susan Atkinson is a longtime Durango resident and a member of the Durango chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, committed to the passage of effective national climate legislation.