By Katie Zakrzewski
In recent years, many places across the United States have seen a dramatic increase in severe weather events and phenomena related to climate. Arizona in particular has had the misfortune of having to deal with multiple climate-related phenomena, such as drought, air pollution, a longer mosquito season, and most notably, wildfires.
Currently, Arizona is the fourth-fastest warming state in the country and has been since 1970. As a result, droughts have grown more and more severe in the state, and the severity of droughts in Arizona is projected to triple by 2050.
Unfortunately, this means that Arizona is the perfect spot for deadly wildfires responsible for destroying property, plants, and wildlife, and causing major air pollution problems in The Grand Canyon State. Less than a month ago, Arizona was put under a red flag warning for an increased risk of wildfires, and almost 45 percent of Arizona’s population is at elevated risk for the phenomenon. In the next 30 years, Arizona is projected to see 115 days with high wildfire potential, second only to California, as western states find themselves suffering from intense “mega-droughts”.
Lauren Franklin, an environmentalist and blogger from Scottsdale, Arizona, is an outdoor enthusiast who works with many environmental groups, including Citizens’ Climate Lobby. She organizes hikes across Arizona and has for years. As a result, she has seen firsthand some of the climate-related disasters that Arizona is facing.
“We’ve had a lot of trails closed during wildfire season and sometimes the trails won’t open back up for several years because of how bad the damage is. It’s just not safe for people to hike in the area because of the fire damage,” she recalls. “We had a really bad fire ruin a lot of saguaros too that are pretty heavily protected so I know the forest service is trying to save them. There’s also a massive drought problem with Arizona’s water sources. All of our reservoirs are below where they need to be and it’s Phoenix’s main source of water.”
Lauren fears that with so much focus on wildfires in California, much of the country tends to forget about Arizona, which faces the same issues.
“I do think California does distract from the similar issues Arizona faces. When it comes to wildfires in California they usually displace people from their homes or even destroy peoples’ homes. When they happen in Arizona they usually are farther out in the wilderness and don’t affect major cities like Phoenix, but they can definitely affect smaller cities like Globe and the wildlife that live in these areas,” she explains. “I am not sure why there hasn’t been more concern about the drought in Arizona. We have seen some national news stories about the drought and how it will affect major cities like Phoenix and Las Vegas, but nothing has been any public service announcements, city or state laws put in place. I do think Arizona farmers have had some of their water cut off. I know in California they have laws in place for cities to conserve water use and are more careful about water use. There isn’t currently anything like that in Arizona.”
Of course, these climate-strengthened wildfires and droughts don’t just negatively affect the surrounding human, plant, and animal populations: the price tag for recovery also tends to be steep.
On Mar. 2, 2022, Arizona received $12.8 million for wildfire disaster recovery. Unfortunately, the rest of the year is expected to be a harsh one for wildfires as well.
Fortunately, you can help prevent climate-exacerbated phenomena in Arizona by joining Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Citizens’ Climate Lobby is a nonpartisan, nonprofit focused on creating political will for a livable world. Everyone that we talk to is an ally that hasn’t joined us yet.