Climate change, as the dominant paradigm in natural resource policy, is obsolete and should be replaced by the water security paradigm. The climate change paradigm is obsolete because it fails to adequately resonate with the concerns of the general public and fails to integrate fundamental sustainability challenges related to economic development and population growth. The water security paradigm directly addresses the main reasons climate change ultimately matters to most people—droughts, floods, plagues, and wars. Additionally, this new proposed paradigm better integrates climate change concerns with other pressing global sustainability challenges—including that economic development and population growth will require 50% more food and energy and 30% more water by 2030 regardless of climate change. The water security paradigm orients all natural resource policies toward achieving a sustainable quantity and quality of water at acceptable costs and risks. Water security improves upon the climate change paradigm in several ways: it (1) replaces carbon footprints with water footprints as the metric for sustainability monitoring and reporting, (2) restructures natural resource governance at the watershed level with regional, rather than hierarchical, leadership, (3) integrates security and public health concerns into natural resource policies, (4) encourages investment in infrastructure for drought and flood resilience, and (5) facilitates the sustainable implementation of human rights.
Rhett B. Larson,
Nw. U. L. Rev.