Global Warming

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As Arizonans, we're used to warm weather. But it's hard for me to imagine this place getting even hotter.

Global warming means that Arizona, like other places, will warm a few degrees in the next 50-100 years. We will adapt by cranking up the air conditioning, spending more time indoors and finding other ways to keep cool. But it may not be so easy for animals to adapt to a changing climate.

I recently did a story for 3TV about the affects of global warming on Arizona and learned some pretty interesting stuff. We know the earth is warming; what we don't know is how that will affect precipitation patterns. Almost all forecast models show Arizona with less snowpack. Some models show the state getting higher-than-average rainfall in the future, but most models predict we'll get a lot less. Whether we get more or less, it's likely that our rainfall will be more erradic. Again, we'll probably be able to adjust to this, but animals may find it impossible.

Talking with biologist Randy Babb at Arizona Game and Fish, I learned that quail are dependent on the monsoon. If the rain starts shifting and comes at a different time of the year, the quail may not be able to get enough green plant feed to be reproductive when they should be reproductive. They may not be flexible enough to adapt their breeding cycle to take advantage of rainfall at another time.

Saguaro germination is also tied to the summer monsoon. If the rainy season changes, Babb says you may not have any saguaro recruitment. We could see saguaros begin to die off, with no young ones coming up to replace them.

When I asked Babb how it made him feel to think of these changes, he compared it to losing a loved one. As a biologist, he is very passionate about the Sonoran desert and the plants and animals that live here. But I think all of us would be sad to imagine these changes, even if they occur in our childrens' or grandchildrens' lifetime.

So what can we do? We can start by cutting back on the carbon dioxide we put into the air every day. Here are a few ideas; you can easily find more on the internet.

Buy a hybrid car. The average driver could save 16,000 pounds of carbon dioxide a year by drivintg a hybrid. But even just buying a more fuel-efficent car could save thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide, not to mention a lot of money.

Plant a tree. Trees suck up carbon dioxide and make the air cleaner for us to breathe. Plus, if you plant a tree that shades your house, you could end up using less energy to cool your home.

Be energy-efficient. Weatherize your home, only run your dishwasher when it's full, and adjust your thermostat a few degrees.

Take shorter showers. Showers account for two-thirds of all water heating costs. Saving water is something we should be doing anyway, since we're in the middle of a drought....a drought that could possibly get worse with global warming.