Drought and Desertification in the West: LCV in Conversation with Climate Champions from Across the Western U.S.

Brittany King, bking@lcv.org

Drought is an inescapable reality of living in the West, but over the last few decades the question on everyone’s mind each year has gone from if there will be a drought to when, where, and how long will it last. This year the answer is now, everywhere, and too long.

Forty-eight million people across the Southwest are under heat advisory warnings, wildfires in California are shrouding Phoenix, AZ in smoke, and about 72 percent of the western U.S. is “in ‘severe’ drought, while 26 percent is in the worst category of ‘exceptional’ drought.” We are nowhere close to normal. And it turns out what we’ve become accustomed to isn’t really normal, either.

Climate change has been causing more frequent and longer droughts across the world for over 100 years and it’s one of the many ways the climate crisis is reshaping the country.

In honor of World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought and in the midst of a historic drought in the Western U.S., LCV asked members of Congress representing communities ranging from Texas to California to answer some questions on drought, climate change, and legislative solutions:

 

1). How do drought and desertification impact your district or state? 

Almost all of Arizona is dealing with droughts that lead to intense wildfires,” – Chair Raúl Grijalva

“Dangerous dry conditions fuel more destructive wildfires & flash floods every year.” – Sen. Martin Heinrich 

“Water & wildfire. 95% of the state is in severe to exceptional drought conditions.” – Rep. Ruben Gallego

“Homes get destroyed, families breathe in toxic air, and entire ecosystems are lost.” – Rep. Katie Porter

“The Rio Grande and other critical water resources for El Paso are slowly becoming unstable, and currently, 50.55% of my community is experiencing extreme drought.” – Rep. Veronica Escobar 

“From water shortages for daily needs to catastrophic wildfires from dry forests, we are really feeling the impacts.” – Rep. Jared Huffman 

“According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the entire state of Nevada is experiencing a drought, with nearly half of the state facing ‘exceptional drought’ conditions.” – Sen. Jacky Rosen

2). What do these changes mean for the country as a whole? 

Whether it’s happening right in your backyard or on the other side of the country, our decreasing water supply can have an impact on the nation as a whole.” – Rep. Jared Huffman

“If we don’t #ActOnClimate now and find sustainable solutions, extreme droughts will continue to hurt our country’s agriculture and cause extreme wildfires.” – Rep. Veronica Escobar

“Drought and desertification not only threaten water supply in the West, but food & other supply chains nationally.” – Rep. Ruben Gallego 

“… because we’ve failed to address this crisis with the urgency it demands, we’re reacting rather than preparing for or mitigating these disasters.” – Sen. Martin Heinrich

“As temperatures rise across the country, we are seeing intense heat that leads to drought, agricultural disruptions, limited water supplies, poor air quality, and increased intensity of the wildfire season.” – Sen. Jacky Rosen

“The impacts of climate change on millions of people & large ecosystems have national implications.” – Chair Raúl Grijalva

3). How is the climate crisis connected?

Climate change means wildfires burn hotter and droughts are drier.” – Chair Raúl Grijalva 

I can’t overstate how deeply tied the drought crisis is to the escalating climate crisis.” – Rep. Jared Huffman

“As temperatures continue to go up, these disasters can grow more intense and unstable.” – Sen. Jacky Rosen 

“Currently, millions of Texans are suffering from rising and dangerous temperatures that continue to push our electric grid beyond its limits. This shouldn’t happen!” – Rep. Veronica Escobar

We are experiencing permanent change to our climate—which means we need to make permanent change to combat and adapt to it.” – Sen. Martin Heinrich

“That’s why we must center environmental justice in our fight to end climate change.” – Rep. Ruben Gallego 

4). What are some solutions?

We must act on climate immediately – our planet can’t wait.” – Rep. Veronica Escobar

It’s vital that officials at every level listen to & work with Indigenous communities in the fight against climate change.” – Rep. Ruben Gallego 

“Rebuild water systems to reflect the reality of reduced snowpack and worse flooding events,” – Sen. Martin Heinrich

“Invest in natural climate solutions to produce healthy ecosystems that sequester carbon,” – Rep. Jared Huffman

“Alongside @POTUS, I’m advocating to protect 30% of lands by 2030.” – Chair Raúl Grijalva

“We need to come together and take action to find common-sense climate solutions.” – Sen. Jacky Rosen

5). Is there legislation to take action on this problem?

We need to study problems to solve them, and yet no agency is responsible for fully reviewing natural disasters—including wildfires intensified by droughts. I introduced a bill to finally conduct this comprehensive research, which would make us safer while saving taxpayer money.” – Rep. Katie Porter 

Definitely. In fact, I have several bills that I’m working on to combat climate change,” – Rep. Jared Huffman 

“My bill to #KeepItGrand protects the Grand Canyon and Colorado River from uranium mining, keeping water that Western states rely on safe.” – Chair Raúl Grijalva

“YES! Here is a list of the bills I’ve introduced to #ActOnClimate…” – Rep. Veronica Escobar 

“I’m proud to cosponsor many bills aimed at halting climate change by limiting emissions & promoting renewable energy.” – Rep. Ruben Gallego

“Switching to clean energy will help reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and legislation like the Clean Energy for America Act will overhaul our tax system to ensure we invest in clean energy solutions.” – Sen. Jacky Rosen

“There are literally dozens of bills to cut pollution, rebuild water infrastructure, & embrace clean energy. And we have an opportunity to pass all of them in the American Jobs Plan.” – Sen. Martin Heinrich

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