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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

What Science Says About Climate Change in Phoenix: Kena Fedorschak discusses the potential impact on the Valley's climate, water and health

Aug 05, 2014 09:47AM ● By Kena Fedorschak

In a speech earlier this year, Secretary of State John Kerry asserted, “The science of climate change is leaping out at us like a scene from a 3-D movie. It’s warning us; it’s compelling us to act.” Little doubt exists within the scientific community regarding the cause of climate change. Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends are the result of human activity. For Phoenix residents willing to trust hard data and empirical science, the question becomes: What are the likely impacts of climate change? Here are some findings from peer-reviewed studies examining the impact of climate change on climate, water availability and health in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

Climate. Arizona has become warmer in recent decades. Research suggests that this trend will continue in the future and will have negative impacts. For example, studies suggest that wildfire frequency and severity will likely increase in the future, meaning that earlier snowmelt and a general drying trend will create a longer fire season.

Water. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects that Arizona and other semiarid regions in the western United States will suffer decreased water availability due to climate change. The past decade has seen the most persistent drought on record in the American Southwest; droughts will likely become increasingly severe in the future. However, Arizona’s water management legislation is very stringent—new developments are required to prove water availability for 100 years. Further, Arizona boasts an extensive reservoir system that allows water to be stored during wet years. Moreover, underground aquifers still contain vast quantities of water and are actively managed. Therefore, it is not likely that water shortages will occur in the foreseeable future.

Health. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency projects that heat-related deaths and increased electricity consumption for air conditioning will occur as Phoenix residents attempt to survive the hot summer months. Additionally, individuals that suffer from seasonal allergies will likely have to endure more severe symptoms because warmer temperatures result in increased pollen production that begins earlier in the year. This is not good news, especially considering the fact that USA Today and the Arizona Republic have named Phoenix as the worst city in the country for ragweed allergies.

We may think that these impacts are relatively minor, but the science generally indicates that climate change will have a much greater impact on other regions of the globe. Rising ocean temperatures, increasingly severe weather patterns and ecosystem loss pose a serious threat in some areas. Hopefully, we will be able to successfully mitigate the negative impacts associated with climate change in future decades.

Kena Fedorschak is pursuing a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree at Arizona State University. He believes that sustainable management practices should achieve fiscal, social and environmental goals. Learn more at KenaFedorschak.com.

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