Climate change is resulting in decreased snowpack in the Southwest, meaning water supply from the Colorado River will dwindle, according to a new report issued by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The report also found that, around the world, ice caps are melting, both heat waves and heavy rains are intensifying, coral reefs are dying, and fish and many other creatures are migrating toward the poles or in some cases going extinct.
“The changes are already occurring in the Southwest...and with increased warming, these problems will only get worse," said Jonathan Overpeck, one of the lead authors of the report, and a professor of geosciences and atmospheric sciences at the UA. "And that’s bad, but it’s also good in the sense that we have a diagnosis. We know what the problem is. And we know what the solutions are. We need to cut the rate of warming by cutting our use of fossil fuel, mainly.”
Overpeck said that, as the effects of climate change intensify, Arizona is poised to profit if renewable sources of energy, including solar, replace fossil fuels in the nation’s energy mix. However, Overpeck noted widespread opposition to adopting renewables both at the state and national levels.
“What they’re fighting against is a cleaner source of energy – that would mean jobs for Arizona," he said. "But it would also mean less climate change and therefore a more secure water supply for our state.”
The report is the IPCC’s first update in seven years, and warned that the worst effects are yet to come.