Shaped by scouring winds and a dearth of water, the Southwestern landscape has been winnowed down to a bare-bones composition of species adapted to its harsh conditions. Still some of them may not be able to withstand what climate change will bring.
I grew up surrounded by sagebrush and Juniper trees, steep sandstone precipices jutting above the horizon, in a remote corner of northwestern New Mexico. The landscape is disarmingly barren and vast, pocked with oil fields and gas derricks seesawing in the distance, and hemmed in by a patchwork of American Indian reservations.
It’s not easy to wrap one’s mind around how this region is being altered by the changing climate. Yet the people living here face unprecedented challenges in the coming decades: the population is expected to swell to 94 million—a 68 percent increase—and, by 2050, agricultural traditions and energy production will be strained by a dwindling water supply. Wildfires and floods are becoming more severe and frequent, while snowpack is shrinking—accelerated by increasing heat and…Have an account?
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