Arizona is vulnerable to increasing heat, melting snowpack, droughts, and wildfires
Arizona’s climate is already changing. The state has warmed two degrees Fahrenheit in the last century. Arizona can expect increasing frequency and intensity of heat waves, reduced snowpack, reduced waterflow in the Colorado and other rivers and increasing frequency and intensity of wildfires. Climate change is also exacerbating the intensity of flash floods, like the floods in September 2015 that killed at least 18 people near the Arizona-Utah border.
- Increasing temperatures: The Southwest is already one of the driest and hottest regions in the US. Increasing temperatures will only exacerbate challenges already present such as heat waves, crop failure, drought, and reduced snowpack, posing increasing threats and costs to public health in Arizona cities especially. A Risky Business report projects the number of days per year of temperatures at or above 95 degrees Fahrenheit will increase by 13 to 28 additional days by mid-century, and an additional 33 to 70 days by the end of the century. That’s one to two months of additional days of extreme heat for babies being born right now in this region. Dust storms and the fungal infection, valley fever, have been on the rise and this will become worse as the state warms further.
- Melting Snowpack: Snowpack and streamflow are projected to decline in Arizona, reducing the reliability of surface water for cities, farmers and ecosystems. Reduced water availability combined with increasing temperatures threaten crops and animal agriculture in Arizona. Arizona is already experiencing water shortages and a prolonged drought. Climate change is expected to negatively impact the Colorado River. Water shortage will add stress to the state’s agriculture, which uses up about two-thirds of Arizona’s water supply. Dry conditions in the area have led to concerns of a first-ever shortage at Lake Mead.
- Wildfires: Climate change is exacerbating the ingredients that contribute to wildfires: heat, drought, and dead trees. These are expected to increase wildfires in Arizona.
- Pests: Warmer, drier conditions make forests more susceptible to pests because trees are less able to fend off attacks. The bark beetle, for example, has infested 100,000 acres in Arizona.
- Adaptation: Arizona has not developed a statewide climate adaptation plan.
Arizona residents support clean energy and climate regulations
- According to the Yale Map Project on Climate Change Communication 69% of Arizona residents recognize that global warming is happening. The project finds that 73% of residents support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant and 81% support funding research into renewable energy sources.
Arizona is leading in solar
- Arizona is one of the sunniest states and ranks ranks 3rd in installed solar capacity, with 3,150 MW installed. The solar industry employs over 7,300 people across 432 companies across the value chain. While Arizona has seen significant growth in solar historically, incentives were eliminated and a net metering charge implemented in 2014 which has slowed growth.
- Wind power can help Arizona meet its renewable energy goals while creating economic development. Currently the state ranks 28th in the nation for wind generation, with 268 MW of capacity installed. That’s enough to power 50,000 homes.
- Arizona passed a renewable portfolio standard in 2001 and increased the standard in 2006. The RPS requires utilities to generate 15% of their electricity sales from renewable sources by 2035. In 2015, 9.5% of net electricity generation came from geothermal, solar, wind, biomass, and hydroelectric power sources, primarily from the Glen Canyon and Hoover Dams.
- Arizona’s Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, rated at 3,937 net megawatts, is the largest net generator of electricity in the nation. By capacity, it is the second-largest power plant of any kind in the nation.
- Arizona, the 14th most populous state, ranked 45th in the nation in per capita energy consumption in 2014, partly because of the state’s small industrial sector.
- Arizona’s only operating coal mine, Kayenta, on the Navajo and Hopi reservations, supplies the 7-to-8 million short tons burned annually by the Navajo Generating Station’s three 750-megawatt units.