Getting to 350 parts per million of CO2 is a goal. Integral to the reduction of anthropogenic emissions is another goal: restoration of the earth’s ailing watersheds. This blog has borne witness to such a cause locally as well as globally.
Economic disincentives for carbon emissions are critical since coal emissions are increasing, and more unconventional sources of fossil fuels are being developed. Energy companies are major polluters of the atmosphere and our watersheds.
Grist contributor Daniel Moss expresses a similar concern.
I’m beginning to understand that the role of water in climate change is not just about adapting to accelerating droughts and floods. Michal Kravcik, a Slovakian hydrologist, said in advance of the Copenhagen talks, “My expectations are simple: to incorporate in the Copenhagen Protocol a mechanism of using water for recovery of the climate … Until now, all initiatives for solution of climatic changes addressed only CO2 reduction.”
Kravcik’s research suggests that climate stabilization requires ensuring that water is absorbed into the earth. That absorption and the subsequent recharging of groundwater reserves prevent landscapes from drying and allows water to play its essential temperature regulating role.
“A study released in 2009 lists the Ohio River as leading the nation in total toxic discharges. The EPA study stated that about 31 million pounds of toxic substances went into the river in 2007. Of these, about 96,699 pounds are considered cancer causing and 29,665 pounds are reproductive toxic chemicals. …Yet, the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORANSCO) identifies the river as the drinking water source for more than three million people.” Not to mention that Ohio is part of the Mississippi – Atchafalaya watershed, one of the largest river basins in the world.
Ross outlines five ideas for respecting the connection between water and climate:
- Build on Michal Kravcik’s research. It makes intuitive sense that water facilitates cooling—just think about how you pour it into your car’s radiators. But let’s nail down water’s specific contribution to global cooling and come up with a specific goal for hydrological health akin to the very tangible and campaignable 350 parts per million for the atmosphere.
- This hydrological health relies on health watersheds. Maude Barlow proposes declaring not only water, but watersheds themselves, as a commons so that property rights don’t disrupt ecosystem health and a water-cooled planet.
- We must push back on climate change mitigation strategies that don’t depart from a holistic understanding of the planet’s interdependent ecosystems. For example, it makes little sense to have a forest-based, carbon sequestration strategy
unless the water necessary for forest life is safeguarded.
- Ensuring that adequate water is available to cool the earth means to take a hard look at current water use and abuse. We must hold industry, agriculture, and sprawling municipalities to sustainable water use and non-contamination standards—which in many cases simply means implementing existing water and public health regulations.
- Our actions ought to be informed by a worldview that holds that water is a commons shared equally by all of humanity and all of nature. That means proposing models of water ownership and management compatible with a commons concept—heavy on citizen engagement and light on privatization.