Much of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from human activities — like burning fossil fuel — is taken up as plant food. Northern Arizona University’s Debbie Huntzinger, a researcher of climate change models, says the land’s surface is currently storing more of the greenhouse gas than it’s giving off.
Some scientists predict the Southwest will continue on its warming trend. NAU biology professor Tom Whitham says the rise in temperatures is happening so fast - 3 degrees in the last 60 years - that many plants are not able to adapt and survive.
The National League of Cities has chosen to recognize Flagstaff for its achievements in climate and weather preparedness. The city is the first in the country to adopt a climate event policy for all municipal operations.
A place with one of the harshest climates in the Southwest –- Phoenix -- records more days over 100 degrees than any other major city in the country. But climate models predict metro Phoenix, with its population of four million, will get hotter.
Here in John Larsala’s driveway, the view is bleak.
“You see our tree is dead,” Larsala said. “All these trees are dying because I can’t put water on it.”
The grass is dead too. In fact, there is no grass anymore.
Sitting high and mainly dry, residents of the Colorado Plateau don’t have to worry about rising sea levels as the Earth’s climate warms. But in recent years parts of the plateau have experienced record warming and low moisture, damaging winter storms, and severe wildfires and flooding.
Whether these are short-term weather events, or signs of a longer-term change in climate, remains to be seen. But some in the region are already adapting to what they fear could be even greater impacts caused by an altered climate.