Nevada is vulnerable to increasing heat, melting snowpack, droughts, and wildfires
Nevada’s climate is already changing. The state has warmed two degrees Fahrenheit in the last century. Nevada can expect increasing frequency and intensity of heat waves, reduced snowpack, reduced water flow in the Colorado and other rivers, as well as increasing frequency and intensity of wildfires due to drier conditions.
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 Nevada 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 now in this region.
Snowpack and streamflow are projected to decline in Nevada, reducing the reliability of surface water for cities, farmers and ecosystems. Reduced water availability combined with increasing temperatures threaten crops and animal agriculture in Nevada. Dry conditions in the area have led to concerns of a first-ever shortage at Lake Mead in 2016.
Climate change is exacerbating the ingredients that contribute to wildfires: heat, drought, and dead trees. These are expected to increase wildfires in Nevada.
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 28,000 acres in Nevada. Also with higher temperatures during winter, some pests are more able to survive year-round, increasing their threat to trees and animals.
The city of Reno has signed on to the We Are Still In declaration supporting the U.S. commitment to the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Nevada is a leader in solar energy
Nevada ranked 5th in installed solar capacity in 2016, with 2,270 MW installed. The solar industry employs over 8,300 people across 126 companies across the value chain. Unfortunately, in 2015, the Public Utility Commission of Nevada changed the net metering policy offered to solar customers in Nevada, which has slowed solar deployment.
Wind power can help Nevada meet its renewable energy goals while creating economic development. Currently the state ranks 32nd in the nation for wind generation, with 152 MW of capacity installed. That’s enough to power 32,000 homes.
Nevada passed a renewable portfolio standard in 1997 and increased the standard in 2009. The RPS requires utilities to generate 25% of their electricity sales from renewable sources by 2025. In 2015, 20.3% of net electricity generation came from geothermal, solar, wind, biomass, and hydroelectric power sources.