US-Mexico deal shows how to make water peace, not war

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15 March 2014 | NewScientist | 5 LEADERS © 2014 Reed Business Information Ltd, England New Scientist is published weekly by Reed Business Information Ltd. ISSN 0262 4079. Registered at the Post Office as a newspaper and printed in England by Polestar (Colchester) LOCATIONS UK Lacon House, 84 Theobald’s Road, London WC1X 8NS Tel +44 (0) 20 7611 1200 Fax +44 (0) 20 7611 1250 AUSTRALIA Tower 2, 475 Victoria Avenue, Chatswood, NSW 2067 Tel +61 2 9422 8559 Fax +61 2 9422 8552 USA 225 Wyman Street, Waltham, MA 02451 Tel +1 781 734 8770 Fax +1 720 356 9217 201 Mission Street, 26th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105 Tel +1 415 908 3348 Fax +1 415 704 3125 SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE For our latest subscription offers, visit newscientist.com/subscribe Customer and subscription services are also available by: Telephone +44 (0) 844 543 80 70 Email [email protected] Web newscientist.com/subscribe Post New Scientist, Rockwood House, Perrymount Road, Haywards Heath, West Sussex RH16 3DH One year subscription (51 issues) UK £150 CONTACTS Contact us newscientist.com/contact Who’s who newscientist.com/people General & media enquiries Tel +44 (0) 20 7611 1202 [email protected] Editorial Tel +44 (0) 20 7611 1202 [email protected] [email protected] [email protected] Picture desk Tel +44 (0) 20 7611 1268 Display Advertising Tel +44 (0) 20 7611 1291 [email protected] Recruitment Advertising UK Tel +44 (0) 20 8652 4444 [email protected] UK Newsstand Tel +44 (0) 20 3148 3333 Newstrade distributed by Marketforce UK Ltd, The Blue Fin Building, 110 Southwark St, London SE1 OSU Syndication Tribune Content Agency Tel +44 (0) 20 7588 7588 [email protected] HER job is to persuade the world to stop climate change. And Christiana Figueres, the UN’s lead climate negotiator, certainly talks the talk (see page 30). But then, given her job description you’d hardly expect her to declare the process doomed. Should we be seduced by her optimism? The world has certainly moved on since the let-down at the 2009 Copenhagen climate talks. By 2016, renewables are expected to supply more electricity than every other source bar coal. Even big businesses are starting to turn various shades of green. And we’ve learned how to get richer without emitting more: last year, for the first time, the growth rate of global CO 2 emissions slowed while GDP rose. US emissions are FORMULA 1 motor racing is hardly a hotbed of green activism. But if anyone knows a thing or two about squeezing the maximum amount of kinetic energy out of a litre of fuel, it is a Formula 1 engineer. Now the sport’s Green-tinted glasses “There are signs of a growing political appetite for change – a commodity sorely lacking in the past” Water peace, not war Cool formula for fuel efficiency Do we dare hope for a global climate treaty next year? now roughly where there were in the mid-1990s while its GDP is back on the up and up. There are also signs of growing political appetite for change – a commodity sorely lacking in Copenhagen. The European Union has committed to large emissions cuts. China still runs on coal, but has a pressing reason for wanting out: smog is now too big a health problem to ignore. And last year the US and China launched a climate-change working group with joint plans that include carbon capture and storage, smart grids and energy efficiency. Does this all point towards a planet-saving agreement next year? Not yet. At the latest round of talks in Bonn, Germany, this week, tensions between old rivals were still apparent. Led by China, the G77 coalition of developing nations insisted that rich countries had to give more – more cuts, and lots more money. And so caution is in order, but Figueres’s optimism does seem to be catching. Delegates in Bonn point to China’s positive mood and Europe’s raised ambitions as signs of a significant shift. We may yet be in for another Copenhagen-style fiasco. But if diplomacy and infectious enthusiasm count for anything, Figueres looks a good bet to make the breakthrough the world so urgently needs. governing body has decided to put this expertise to good use. As of this weekend, Formula 1 cars will be limited to Ford Focus-sized engines, concentrating brilliant minds on fuel efficiency issues likely to be relevant to the real world of family cars (see page 21). The motives are not entirely altruistic: mainstream engine- makers have drifted away from Formula 1, claiming that its challenges are “irrelevant” to their core business. Formula 1 needs them back. But that is no reason to sneer. To meet the grand challenges of the 21st century, environmental concerns need to break out of their ghetto. If Formula 1 gets petrolheads fired up about fuel efficiency, so much the better. CROSS-BORDER water disputes usually conjure up images of parched Middle Eastern states such as Jordan and Israel. But one of the longest running has been between the US and Mexico over the Colorado river, which travels its final 100 kilometres or so in Mexico before emptying into the Gulf of California. Or at least it used to: the river last reached the sea on a regular basis in the early 1960s, before the Glen Canyon dam was built more than 1000 kilometres upstream. That dispute is now largely settled following a historic deal. Mexico and the US have agreed to share both water and drought – an increasingly frequent visitor to the region. One of the most gratifying aspects of the deal is that it includes ecological restoration (see page 8). The agreement is already being touted as a model for water agreements elsewhere. Bulgarian, Chilean, Czech and Kazakh water managers have all visited the region to learn about its successes. Sixty per cent of the world’s fresh water spans international boundaries, and while dire warnings of escalating “water wars” have yet to come to pass, managing this vital resource is crucial to future peace and prosperity. The US and Mexico have shown the way forward.

Transcript of US-Mexico deal shows how to make water peace, not war

Page 1: US-Mexico deal shows how to make water peace, not war

15 March 2014 | NewScientist | 5

LEADERS

© 2014 Reed Business Information Ltd, England

New Scientist is published weekly by Reed Business Information Ltd. ISSN 0262 4079.

Registered at the Post Office as a newspaper and printed in England by Polestar (Colchester)

LOCATIONSUKLacon House, 84 Theobald’s Road, London WC1X 8NS Tel +44 (0) 20 7611 1200 Fax +44 (0) 20 7611 1250

AUSTRALIATower 2, 475 Victoria Avenue, Chatswood, NSW 2067Tel +61 2 9422 8559 Fax +61 2 9422 8552

USA225 Wyman Street, Waltham, MA 02451Tel +1 781 734 8770 Fax +1 720 356 9217

201 Mission Street, 26th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105Tel +1 415 908 3348 Fax +1 415 704 3125

SUBSCRIPTION SERVICEFor our latest subscription offers, visitnewscientist.com/subscribe

Customer and subscription services are also available by:Telephone +44 (0) 844 543 80 70Email [email protected] newscientist.com/subscribePost New Scientist, Rockwood House, Perrymount Road, Haywards Heath, West Sussex RH16 3DH

One year subscription (51 issues) UK £150

CONTACTSContact us newscientist.com/contact

Who’s who newscientist.com/people

General & media enquiriesTel +44 (0) 20 7611 1202 [email protected]

Editorial Tel +44 (0) 20 7611 [email protected]@[email protected]

Picture desk Tel +44 (0) 20 7611 1268

Display Advertising Tel +44 (0) 20 7611 [email protected]

Recruitment Advertising UK Tel +44 (0) 20 8652 [email protected]

UK Newsstand Tel +44 (0) 20 3148 3333Newstrade distributed by Marketforce UK Ltd, The Blue Fin Building, 110 Southwark St, London SE1 OSU

SyndicationTribune Content AgencyTel +44 (0) 20 7588 [email protected]

HER job is to persuade the world to stop climate change. And Christiana Figueres, the UN’s lead climate negotiator, certainly talks the talk (see page 30).

But then, given her job description you’d hardly expect her to declare the process doomed. Should we be seduced by her optimism?

The world has certainly moved on since the let-down at the 2009 Copenhagen climate talks. By 2016, renewables are expected to supply more electricity than every other source bar coal. Even big businesses are starting to turn various shades of green. And we’ve learned how to get richer without emitting more: last year, for the first time, the growth rate of global CO2

emissions slowed while GDP rose. US emissions are

FORMULA 1 motor racing is hardly a hotbed of green activism. But if anyone knows a thing or two about squeezing the maximum amount of kinetic energy out of a litre of fuel, it is a Formula 1 engineer. Now the sport’s

Green-tinted glasses

“There are signs of a growing political appetite for change – a commodity sorely lacking in the past”

Water peace, not war

Cool formula for fuel efficiency

Do we dare hope for a global climate treaty next year?

now roughly where there were in the mid-1990s while its GDP is back on the up and up.

There are also signs of growing political appetite for change – a commodity sorely lacking in Copenhagen. The European Union has committed to large emissions cuts. China still runs on coal, but

has a pressing reason for wanting out: smog is now too big a health problem to ignore. And last year the US and China launched a climate-change working group with joint plans that include carbon capture and storage, smart grids and energy efficiency.

Does this all point towards a planet-saving agreement next year? Not yet. At the latest round of talks in Bonn, Germany, this week, tensions between old rivals were still apparent. Led by China, the G77 coalition of developing nations insisted that rich countries had to give more – more cuts, and lots more money.

And so caution is in order, but Figueres’s optimism does seem to be catching. Delegates in Bonn point to China’s positive mood and Europe’s raised ambitions as signs of a significant shift.

We may yet be in for another Copenhagen-style fiasco. But if diplomacy and infectious enthusiasm count for anything, Figueres looks a good bet to make the breakthrough the world so urgently needs. ■

governing body has decided to put this expertise to good use. As of this weekend, Formula 1 cars will be limited to Ford Focus-sized engines, concentrating brilliant minds on fuel efficiency issues likely to be relevant to the real world of family cars (see page 21).

The motives are not entirely altruistic: mainstream engine-makers have drifted away from

Formula 1, claiming that its challenges are “irrelevant” to their core business. Formula 1 needs them back.

But that is no reason to sneer. To meet the grand challenges of the 21st century, environmental concerns need to break out of their ghetto. If Formula 1 gets petrolheads fired up about fuel efficiency, so much the better. ■

CROSS-BORDER water disputes usually conjure up images of parched Middle Eastern states such as Jordan and Israel. But one of the longest running has been between the US and Mexico over the Colorado river, which travels its final 100 kilometres or so in Mexico before emptying into the Gulf of California.

Or at least it used to: the river last reached the sea on a regular

basis in the early 1960s, before the Glen Canyon dam was built more than 1000 kilometres upstream.

That dispute is now largely settled following a historic deal. Mexico and the US have agreed to share both water and drought – an increasingly frequent visitor to the region. One of the most gratifying aspects of the deal is that it includes ecological restoration (see page 8).

The agreement is already being touted as a model for water agreements elsewhere. Bulgarian, Chilean, Czech and Kazakh water managers have all visited the region to learn about its successes.

Sixty per cent of the world’s fresh water spans international boundaries, and while dire warnings of escalating “water wars” have yet to come to pass, managing this vital resource is crucial to future peace and prosperity. The US and Mexico have shown the way forward. ■