The IUCN Academy of Environmental Law series
Edited by Paul Martin, Li Zhiping, Qin Tianbao, Anel Du Plessis, Yves Le Bouthillier and Angela Williams
Chapter 8: Global Climate Disruption and Water Law Reform in the United States
Joseph W. Dellapenna 8.1 INTRODUCTION We live today on a planet undergoing disruptive climate change (IPCC 2007a). Regardless of cause, a great deal of climate change now seems unavoidable – with potentially disastrous consequences (IPCC 2007b). Farmers in the Northern Hemisphere are experiencing measurably longer growing seasons, which is not always a blessing (Angelo 2010). Climate disruption brings more extreme events – droughts and floods – at more frequent intervals. Even more importantly, global climate disruption also will change the timing and nature of precipitation throughout much of the planet. These changes will make water more available in some areas and less available in others (e.g. Kim and Kaluarachi 2009; Young 2009). Unfortunately, precise prediction of just how these changes will play out remains impossible and might not become clear for decades. We can predict that over the coming century, hotter temperatures and drier air will cause higher rates of evapo-transpiration and drier soils less supportive of plant life without irrigation, while arid regions will become wider. The melting of glaciers and the mountain snowpack will reduce or destroy the storage capacity of these immense reservoirs of fresh water that sustain rivers during the dry months of the year. Global climate disruption will also lead to a rise in sea levels, which in some parts of the world will lead to salt water intrusion into fresh waters that today are widely consumed for human uses. Temperatures, the amount of precipitation, and the depth of snowpacks will vary, up and down, from year to...
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