Wyoming is vulnerable to increasing heat, melting snowpack and glaciers, reduced water availability and wildfires
Wyoming’s climate is already changing. Most of the state has warmed by one to three degrees Fahrenheit in the last century. The number of extreme weather events, including record rainfall and flooding in the Northern Great Plains, and prolonged drought and heatwaves in the south, are expected to both increase and become more severe as a result of global climate change. These impacts will impact Wyoming’s agriculture industry, harm human health and decrease ecosystem resiliency.
- Increasing temperatures: Wyoming and the rest of the Northern Great Plains currently experience an average of 159 days a year with temperatures below freezing. This number could drop to an average of just 79 days per year by 2100 as a result of global climate change, which could greatly impact agriculture and energy use. While cold becomes less frequent, extreme heat will increase in the Great Plains region. Days where the maximum temperature exceeds 95 degrees Fahrenheit in the Northern Plains are projected to double by mid-century. Rising temperatures, persistent drought and aquifer depletion could threaten the long-term sustainability of the great plains. The majority of land in the Great Plains is devoted to agriculture, producing $92 billion in products each year. This industry is expected to be heavily impacted by global warming, which could lead to lower crop yields and less economic productivity.
- Melting Snowpack and Glaciers: Snowpack and glaciers are declining in Wyoming, reducing the reliability of surface water for cities, farmers and ecosystems. Many of Wyoming’s 1,500 glaciers are likely to retreat and many to disappear by 2030 if current warming continues. The Wyoming region is witnessing less snow cover in the Wind River Range because snow is melting earlier, leaving less time for snow accumulation. Reduced water availability combined with increasing temperatures threaten crops and animal agriculture in Wyoming.
- Wildfires: Climate change is exacerbating the ingredients that contribute to wildfires: heat, drought, and dead trees. These are expected to increase wildfires in Wyoming which can harm property, livelihoods and human health.
- Adaptation: Wyoming has not developed a statewide climate adaptation plan.
Wyoming residents support clean energy and climate regulations
- According to the Yale Map Project on Climate Change Communication 61% of Wyoming residents recognize that global warming is happening. The project finds that 66% of residents support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant and 82% support funding research into renewable energy sources.
Wyoming’s history is in coal, and future is in wind
- Wyoming is one of the top states in the country for potential wind generation and can help Wyoming meet its renewable energy goals while creating economic development. Currently the state ranks 15th in the nation for wind generation, with 1,489 MW of capacity installed. That’s enough to power over 400,000 homes.
- Wyoming ranks 46th in installed solar capacity, with 330 kW installed.
- Wyoming has not passed a renewable portfolio standard.
- Wyoming produced 42% of all coal mined in the United States in 2015.
- In 2015, almost 88% of net electricity generation in Wyoming came from coal and nearly 11% came from renewable energy resources, primarily wind.
- Wyoming had the third lowest average retail electricity rates of any state in 2015, yet per capita, Wyoming is the largest carbon emitter in the US.