Gregg Garfin is a UA scientist with a political agenda. His job is to make politicians, planners, business leaders and the general public understand what he and his fellow scientists are learning about climate change.
Garfin will discuss his work in a talk entitled “Is Climate Change Turning Tucson Into Yuma?” His presentation will begin at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday (June 26) in the Great Room of the Arizona Senior Academy.
As deputy director for Science Translation & Outreach at the UA Institute of the Environment, Garfin’s duties include fostering dialogues between scientists and stakeholders, garnering stakeholder input to research activities, disseminating research results and conducting workshops on topics of interest to Southwest decision-makers.
He was project manager and lead editor of the Climate Assessment for the Southwest project, a NOAA-funded integrated assessment designed to identify and evaluate climate impacts on human and natural systems in the Southwest.
The conclusions brought forth in that project, drawn from 120 participating climate experts, are sobering: Climate-generated declines in soil moisture, late-season snowpack and river flow will reduce water availability throughout the Southwest. Hotter temperatures and less soil moisture will create longer and more destructive fire seasons. By mid-century, Tucson will have a projected additional 34 days a year (an extra month) of 100-plus-degree days and 25 more 110-plus-degree days.
“Our future prosperity,” Garfin warns, “will evaporate along with our water supplies” – unless he and other scientists can convince decision-makers that these threats are real and must be addressed.
Garfin says the field he calls “science translation” has taken on new urgency in the past decade, but is actually well grounded in past practices. “You can trace it back more than a century, to when the Department of Agriculture first set up Extension Service bureaus across the country to help farmers utilize the most up-to-date scientific methods of agriculture,” he said.
He tries to avoid confrontations with those who dispute the scientific view that humans are major contributors to climate change. Instead, he uses established scientific data, including paleo-climatic data based on tree-ring dating, to help decision-makers understand the effects of climate change. “As long as we don’t discuss attribution,” Garfin said, “I can pretty much have productive conversations with everyone.”
Submitted by Mike Maharry, Academy Village Volunteer