Cowboys rounding up cattle in New Mexico.
Credit: ©Steven Allan, iStockphoto.com
Climate change will affect resources that are vital to the Southwest’s farming and ranching industries. Changes in water availability, vegetation cover, carbon dioxide levels, and frequency of extreme events like flood, drought, or frost will impact crop and forage production, increasing costs for both producers and consumers.
Drought and People
Regional projections for more intense drought combined with higher temperatures means less available water. Society will be impacted if access to water becomes limited for household, commercial, industrial, or recreational uses.
Health risks in the Southwest are projected to increase with climate change. Risk of heat stroke, increased asthma and allergy attacks caused by poor quality air, and disease such as West Nile virus, hantavirus, and valley fever will likely increase.
Tourism and Recreation
Climate change projections for the Southwest could impact the region’s natural ecosystems, which lure thousands of tourists and outdoor enthusiasts to the region each year. Changes to the lengths of tourism and recreation seasons will affect the economic livelihoods of those who work in these industries.
Urban Heat Island
Urban areas are experiencing more rapid temperature increases than surrounding rural, agricultural, and wildland areas. This rise in temperature is compounded by projected global warming trends, bringing health and economic impacts for urban residents and farming communities near large cities.
Regional projections for less precipitation and higher temperatures will significantly reduce the amount of water available for human use. Reservoir, snowpack, streamflow, and groundwater levels may drop significantly due to more severe and frequent drought.