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State Reports Sound Alarm at the Economic and Environmental Impacts of Climate Change

J. Mijin Cha

Despite the fact that climate change and global warming are sorely missing from mainstream political agendas, the vast majority of Americans believe that climate change is not only real but it is also responsible for the erratic weather patterns experienced last winter (December 2011-January 2012) and in the Summer of 2011.

Accompanying the costs of erratic weather, climate change will cause further severe economic and environmental damage. Today, Demos released four reports that look at the specific economic and environmental impacts of climate change in Arizona, Florida, Nevada and Virginia.  The reports were written by Robert Repetto, PhD, a Senior Fellow in the United Nations Foundation’s climate and energy program. Among the state specific findings:


Climate change is already affecting Arizona’s environment. Temperatures have risen by almost two degrees F in the past several decades, more rapidly than any other state in the lower 48 states, and are projected to continue increasing sharply by another three to five degrees F in 2050. The effects of climate change will hurt the tourist industry, increase health care costs, and make an already drought-prone area even more water scarce. Specifically:

  • A substantial segment of Arizona’s economy is the extremely climate-sensitive travel and tourism industry. Almost 37 million visitors in 2010 spent nearly $18 billion on a wide variety of goods and services, generating more than 150,000 jobs, nearly $5 billion in direct earnings, and $3.5 billion in state and local taxes. Increasing temperatures will make being outdoors uncomfortable and make Arizona a less attractive destination.
  • Ozone and smog concentrations will rise with higher air temperatures and growing energy use, which will increase asthma rates and health care costs.
  • Climate change is reducing precipitation, especially in the spring and early summer months, and these declines are projected to continue. Runoff in the Colorado and other river systems that Arizona’s water supply depend on for direct use and for groundwater recharge will decline by 20-40 percent by mid-century, exacerbating water supply shortages that are already evident. In addition, agriculture and ranching industries are facing increasing heat, drought, water shortages and pest damages that combine to reduce yields and productivity.