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CR 21:199-218 (2002)  -  doi:10.3354/cr021199

Climate and society in the US Southwest: the context for a regional assessment

Diana M. Liverman1,*, Robert Merideth2

1Center for Latin American Studies, and Department of Geography and Regional Developments, The University of Arizona, 103 Douglass Building, Tucson, Arizona 85719, USA
2Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy, The University of Arizona, 803 E. First St., Tucson, Arizona 85719, USA

ABSTRACT: We examine the general relationships between climate and society in the US Southwest providing a context for the ongoing Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS) Project. We review 5 key contextual elements of the region‹its demography, economy, land, water, and institutions and values‹and indicate how these conditions predispose certain social groups, economic sectors, or geographic areas to be more or less vulnerable, adaptable, or responsive to climate variability, climate information and climate change. Given the rapid influx of people into the region, the significant economic growth, and competing demands for water and other resources, especially in urban areas, vulnerability to climatic variations is already increasing in some areas of the Southwest. Differences in income, access to institutional resources, or employment options make some individuals or groups less able to cope with the adverse effects of climate changes or to use climate information to guide decisions. And the ability to respond to climatic variability and make the best use of climate information often is constrained both by institutional obligations and by the tense politics of some public land management in the region. Yet, improved climate information could assist decision-makers in dealing with these and other climate-related problems within the region, so long as institutional structures, public attitudes, and other internal and external conditions provide the flexibility to use the information in appropriate ways.

KEY WORDS: Climate · Society · Southwest · Regional assessment · CLIMAS · Arizona · New Mexico

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