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In 2018, the Colorado River Basin Needs To Embrace “Climate Change” Not “Drought”

In 2018, the Colorado River Basin Needs To Embrace “Climate Change” Not “Drought”

Over the past few years, federal/state/local agencies have pushed forward “Drought Contingency Planning” in the Upper and Lower Colorado River basin. This planning has embraced the fact that the Colorado River has had, on average, much less water flowing in it over the last 18 years. In various conversations with agencies and elected officials, it has become clear that the term “drought” is considered to be politically safe because everyone believes and agrees there has been a drought. What people don’t agree on is the cause of the drought.

Many Republicans refuse to believe in “climate change” and so have stricken the words from governmental conversations. However, the best available science indicates that part of the cause of the lower flows in the Colorado River has been due to climate change. In addition, the best available science indicates that climate change impacts on flows in the Colorado River will increase over time, causing even less water to be in the river.

Why is it so important to call it “climate change” instead of “drought”?

First, it’s scientifically accurate.
Second, a drought is temporary, whereas climate change is permanent.

Consider this analogy: If you have a headache, and the best medical science says it’s caused by a blood clot in your brain, should you say you have a “headache” or a “blood clot in your brain”?

If we don’t embrace the best available science and embrace the correct meaning of the language we are using, then the policy prescriptions will not really address the problem.

Further, it has implications for the “Drought Contingency Planning”, which inaccurately acts as if the problem is temporary and will get better, while the best available science says that the problem is permanent and will get worse.


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