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As climate warms, deserts, forests, cities face uncertain futures

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It’s the year 2100.

A nine-mile paved loop in the Sonoran Desert outside Tucson is the only evidence of Saguaro National Park, which was shut down after its last surviving cactus was finally suffocated by an invasive grass.

In Flagstaff, chairlifts transport skiers above barren mountainsides, while the formerly individual trails below having been forced into an indistinct snowy expanse by a recent fire that wiped out thousands of acres of forest.

Millions of families in Phoenix and Tucson drink desalinated ocean water routed in canals from Mexico and California, a costly but necessary means of compensating for decades of drought that had drained the supply previously provided by the Colorado River.

These are just a few of the possibilities that experts from around the state offered when Cronkite News asked them how Arizona’s forests, deserts and major metropolitan areas might look at the end of the century given generally accepted rates of global warming.

Experts interviewed for this project based the possible outcomes on a projected increase in average annual temperature of 6 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century.

While each offered a different perspective and prediction for the future, all of the scientists interviewed agreed that Arizona must adapt quickly and with sensitivity toward an uncertain future.

Follow the links at right to explore this project.