Tribes Vulnerable To Climate Change Health Impacts

Jan 25, 2013

A group of scientists from universities and federal agencies say we can blame climate change for an increase in heat stroke, respiratory problems and other health issues across the southwest in coming years. And they've found Native American tribes to be particularly at risk. Fronteras reporter Laurel Morales reports from Flagstaff.

The Southwest Climate Alliance says this region is one of the most rapidly warming in the U.S. Temperatures are projected to increase from 2 to 6 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050 in the 6 southwestern states, and double that amount by the end of the century. That's based on assumptions of continued high rates of greenhouse gas emissions.

Margaret Hiza Redsteer, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, says in a webinar that the southwest's 182 tribes are especially vulnerable to climate change. Redsteer says, "there are vulnerabilities tribes have because of their economic and political disadvantages and the fact that their cultures are very intimately tied to local traditional resources."

She points to the Navajo and Hopi tribes who've found it more and more difficult to continue growing corn and raising sheep.

But Redsteer says even though they have few resources, tribes are taking positive action as sovereign nations to address climate change.