Climate change impacts in our backyards: the Southwest

The Southwestern United States

A convergence of the highest population growth rates in the nation and the most rapid warming compared with other regions makes the American Southwest especially vulnerable to climate impacts.

“The fingerprints of climate change can already be seen in both natural and managed ecosystems of the Southwest.  Future impacts on the landscape are expected to be substantial, threatening biodiversity, protected areas, and ranching and agricultural lands.”  [quotes are from the June 2009 USGCRP report, Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States].

The Southwest already experiences very high summer temperatures and corresponding water and energy needs, intensified by a rapidly growing population.  Projected temperature increases for the Southwest represent augmented stresses to health, electricity, and water supply in a region that is already at risk.  As the climate warms, the current “tug-of-war among preserving natural ecosystems, supplying the needs of rapidly expanding urban areas, and protecting the lucrative agricultural sector, will be exacerbated.”

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