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New Book Outlines Unique Challenges Climate Instability Poses to Southwest

In an era of increasing climate instability, the southwestern region in the United States faces strained water resources, greater prevalence of tree-killing pests and potentially significant alterations of agricultural infrastructure.

Such threats and challenges, as well as others, are detailed a new book, "Assessment of Climate Change in the Southwest United States," published by Island Press. The book is a landmark study that includes major contributions from 13 UA scientists and is edited by University climate expert Gregg Garfin and colleagues from across the UA campus.

A hotter future is projected for the southwestern region of the United States – a region stretching from the California coast to the plains of eastern Colorado and New Mexico – and future heat and changes in precipitation will present challenges for managing natural resources, water, infrastructure and threats to human health.

“According to our research, we are already witnessing the effects of climate change on snowmelt, and increased temperatures are strongly associated with increased wildfire risk, extensive forest mortality, and longer, more severe heat waves,” said Garfin, the book’s chief editor.

Climate change experts will deliver an overview of the book’s findings, including regional climate impacts, projected impacts and solutions for society on May 2 at 7 p.m. The event, "Climate Change in the Tucson Region: Sustainable Living or Abandoned Wasteland?," will be held at the UA's Center for Creative Photography, is free and open to the public.

Panelists include:

  • Garfin, the report's co-editor and a UA assistant professor and assistant extension specialist in climate, natural resources and policy, in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment
  • Ardeth Barnhart, program director for the UA Renewable Energy Network
  • Dan Cayan, a researcher for the Scripps Institution of Oceanography
  • UA Provost Andrew Comrie
  • Diana Liverman, co-director for the UA Institute of the Environment
  • Glen MacDonald, director of the University of California, Los Angeles Institute of the Environment and Sustainability
  • Ken Seasholes, the Central Arizona Project's resource planning and analysis manager

The discussion will conclude with a question and answer session, and the event will be webcast live online.

The new book focuses on current climate conditions in the region, the environment of the past, what is projected to change over the 21st century and how this will impact ecosystems, water resources, agricultural production, energy supply and delivery, transportation and human health.

Also, the book stresses the choices and opportunities available to society in order to reduce the causes and effects of climate change in the region. It notes the steps governments, businesses, organizations and individuals are taking to improve energy efficiency, improve water supply reliability, decrease wildfire risk and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A consortium of researchers from the Southwest Climate Alliance coordinated the assessment; these scientists are affiliated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessment Program and the U.S. Department of the Interior Southwest Climate Science Center.

The book blends the contributions of 120 experts in climate science, economics, ecology, engineering, geography, hydrology, planning, resource management and other disciplines. Also, the book is one of 10 regional technical inputs to the 2013 National Climate Assessment released in draft form earlier this year.

Besides Garfin, UA contributors include Heidi E. Brown, Chris Castro, Karletta Chief, Andrew Comrie, George B. Frisvold, Christina Greene, Eric Holthaus, Angela Jardine, Diana Liverman, Jonathan Overpeck, Joellen Russell and Margaret Wilder. The researchers contributed to chapters on human health, extreme climate, tribal challenges, agriculture, sustainability and climate impacts on U.S. and Mexico border communities.

Contact: Gregg Garfin, deputy director for science translation and outreach for the UA Institute of the Environment, at 520-591-9543 or gmgarfin@email.arizona.edu.