What climate change means for Arizona

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The global body of scientists tasked with assessing climate change and its impacts has released a startling new report.

ARIZONA, USA – The global body of scientists charged with assessing climate change and its impacts has released a startling new report.

The report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Climate change 2022: impacts, adaptation and vulnerability concludes that widespread damage to wildlife, ecosystems and civilization is occurring at a faster rate than expected.

The report also indicates that despite additional efforts by governments, the world is losing ground in its ability to adapt to climate change.

ASU’s sustainability expert steps in

Dave White, director of ASU’s Global Institute for Sustainability and Innovation, says the report is “another in a series of wake-up calls.”

“The extent and magnitude of climate change impacts are greater than in previous assessments,” White said.

The report concludes that “climate change has caused substantial damage and increasingly irreversible loss”, including “widespread deterioration of ecosystems” affecting billions of lives around the world.

What the report means for Arizona

The report says temperature changes, rainfall and extreme weather conditions have all increased in frequency.

“For those of us in the southwest, that usually translates to extreme heat as well as extreme and prolonged droughts,” White said.

In rural Arizona, the current 23-year drought is equivalent to bigger and hotter wildfires and less water for farmers to grow due to recent federally mandated water cuts to the Colorado River.

In urban areas, drought is leading to faster depletion of wells and aquifers.

In Phoenix, prolonged heat waves cause higher death ratesespecially among the elderly and low-income Arizonans.

Adaptation and innovation

The report calls for an entirely new vision of how humanity lives alongside nature, as our current adaptation efforts are simply not keeping pace.

Examples of current adaptation efforts in Arizona include the establishment of cooling centers in cities during heat waves, logging projects in thinned forests, wildlife conservation projects, and conservation initiatives some water.

Government leaders will need to do much more, with a focus on building safety nets for the most vulnerable, to reduce disasters and widespread deaths, the report says.

In search of nature-based solutions

White says adaptation efforts aren’t just about reducing the negative impacts of climate change. He says there are ways to use natural infrastructure to improve the quality of life.

White cites the creation of the Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt in the East Valley as an example of using natural infrastructure to protect communities from flooding and creating green infrastructure at the same time.

“These adaptations to climate change provide a whole range of benefits for the health of our communities, for the ecosystems that support many services and provide us, especially in the Southwest, with these wonderful recreational environments in which we love to play,” White said.

Water, forests and heat

According to White, Arizona’s efforts to adapt to climate change should focus on three main areas: water resilience, forest health, and adaptations to extreme heat.

“The Governor recently launched a major push for policies and investments in water security and resilience, so I applaud those efforts and think it will take those and a full suite of strategies. different ways to keep water safe,” White said.

He added that governments should create more investment in health forests and in efforts to protect Arizonans from extreme heat in schools, community centers and homeless shelters.

“Investing in adaptation solutions now is smart and saves us from larger investments that will be needed in the future,” White said.

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