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Univ. of Arizona professor has hand in climate-change report

PHOENIX — The Obama administration released an updated federal scientific report Tuesday showing how climate change had touched every part of the country.

Kathy Jacobs, professor of soil, water and environmental science at the University of Arizona, has been working with the White House for four years on the study and said the effects of climate change have been felt for years. It will only worsen if measures aren’t taken soon, she said.

Arizona’s wildfires have become progressively worse in the past few years, with nine of the 10 largest ever occurring since 2002.

“We can reduce the emissions with more efficient energy use in our homes,” Jacobs said. “We can change the trajectory we’re on. It will continue to warm up to some degree but the future will look very different if we start making investments now.

Jacobs said the climate assessment pointed out the expected impacts and some that were unexpected.

“It’s very clear the impacts are already occurring in the Southwest. We’re seeing larger wildfires, more drought and issues with human health,” she said. “Water is a major problem for the Southwest and in the context of climate change it’s a problem in supply and the increased demand. Agriculture is being impacted not just as far as water but the higher temperatures.”

On the other hand, Arizona may be ahead of the curve when it comes to banking water.

“Arizona has a very sophisticated water-management system with a lot of comprehensive water sources. That being said, the impacts to the Colorado River system are substantial and expected to increase,” Jacobs said.

Climate-change skeptics were quick to paint the study as alarmist.

“This report was not written by the government. It was written by scientists and experts,’ Jacobs said. “This has nothing to do with conspiracy theories, it’s about what people are observing. This is about science, not politics.”