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Climate change will damage Arizona in a variety of ways, new report says

(Kelly Presnell /Arizona Daily Star via AP)

PHOENIX – Climate change will diminish water supplies and agricultural output in Arizona and increase wildfires and health risks in the state, according to a wide-ranging new federal report.

The National Climate Assessment, written by outside scientists and officials from 13 federal agencies, was released Friday.

The report, which is mandated by law every few years, is based on more than 1,000 previous research studies.

It details how global warming from the burning of coal, oil and gas is hurting each region of the United States and how it impacts different sectors of the economy, including energy and agriculture.

The Southwest section of the report highlights five key messages, four of which pertain to Arizona: reduced snowpack and streamflows, threats to agriculture, increased wildfire and heat threats to health. (Sea level rise and coastal damage is the fifth key message.)

University of Arizona professor David Breshears contributed to the report on the subject of how droughts impact forests.

He said climate change has caused millions of trees to die off, which has fueled an increase in wildfires.

“Warming temperatures are increasing a lot of stress on our ecosystems. … They’re making it easier for forests to get invaded by pests and pathogens. They’re making it easier for forests to go up in flames,” he said.

“All of those things are really interrelated.”

The report says more than 90 percent of the current warming is caused by humans. Without greenhouse gases, natural forces — such as changes in energy from the sun — would be slightly cooling Earth.

“There are no credible alternative human or natural explanations supported by the observational evidence,” the report says.

Breshears said that while the report wasn’t intended to provide solutions, changes in human behavior can “help reduce the overall magnitude of the impacts.”

“Whatever we can do to slow those emissions down can potentially have a big impact on what we see in the future,” he said.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Taylor Kinnerup and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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