A geographically diverse state in the southern United States, Arkansas depends heavily upon lumber and wood products, agriculture, forestry, and tourism for its economic stability. All of these sectors are particularly vulnerable to the changes global warming can produce in the state's ecosystem. Arkansans have been slow to respond to threats to the state's environment, but, in recent years, both city and state governments have begun implementing strategies designed to address the problem. A 2001 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that temperatures in Arkansas could increase from 1-5 degrees F (0.5-2.7 degrees C) by 2100.
Water for irrigation of crops and maintenance of eastern Arkansas's fish farms is vital to the state's economy. The recent decrease in groundwater levels, due to heavy demands and the compromising of freshwater aquifers by seepage of saline water from underlying rocks, have already driven farmers to drill deeper wells and consider the use of surface waters from the Arkansas and other rivers within the state. Such problems are likely to worsen with warmer temperatures, and agriculture is not the only concern. Already, dry tributaries of the Arkansas River threaten the summer flow upon which fishing, and boating depend.
Even small increases in temperature could cause 40-60 percent of the state's forests to be supplanted by grasslands, a change that could, in turn, mean loss of wildlife and habitat. The timber business would suffer as a result, as would a $1.2 billion tourism industry that consists largely of wildlife viewers, hunters, and fishermen. Fears about the loss of breeding ground for the state's birds, some of them already endangered species, is a pressing concern. It was in the Big Woods of east Arkansas in 2004 that a research team sighted the ivory-billed woodpecker, believed to be extinct for more than half a century. Water quality could also be affected by warmer summers, and low oxygen, combined with increases in nitrogen and phosphorus, could threaten wetlands.
Although Arkansas meets all federal air quality standards for criteria pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, hydrocarbons, and lead, and its CO2 emissions place it 33rd among the 50 states; in 2004, Arkansas ranked 19th among the 50 states in per capita emissions. Like other states that have grown economically, Arkansas's percentage of CO2 emissions has risen comparatively. Between 1990 and 2001, the economy grew 49 percent and carbon dioxide emissions rose 42 percent. Power companies and the transportation sector are the greatest offenders. Despite these statistics, Arkansas has a poor record of acting to implement solutions.
The state has enjoyed some success in recycling solid wastes and in implementing building codes that encourage energy efficiency. More recently, the state has encouraged the use of solar energy. In 2005, the Eastman Chemical Company near Batesville, Arkansas, became the first plant in the state to produce biodiesel from soybean oil. Researchers suggest Arkansas's most promising experiment with biofuels may be processing cellulosic ethanol, in conjunction with synthetic fuels from large lignite reserves. The state has also provided tax credits designed to encourage the use of biofuels.
In April 2007, Governor Mike Beebe established The Governor's Commission on Global Warming to study the potential impacts of climate change on the state's environment and econom,y and to recommend global warming pollutant reduction goals and strategies. However, Arkansas's most effective strategies to combat global warming have come at the local level. Mayors of three of the state's largest cities (Little Rock, Fayetteville, and North Little Rock) signed the Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement, a movement by mayors of U.S. cities to circumvent federal delays in addressing global warming. Participating cities commit to use projects at the local level, such as anti-sprawl policies and urban forest renewal, to meet or exceed the greenhouse gas emission reduction target suggested for the United States in the Kyoto Protocol. This includes a 7 percent reduction from 1990 levels by 2012, and to urge bipartisan support for legislation targeting the same goals at state and national levels. Fayetteville Mayor Dan Cody developed the first public-sector sustain-ability department in Arkansas, and, in 2007, built a biofuel station for fleet vehicles that provides 60,000 gallons of Arkansas biofuel a year.
sEE ALso: Forests; Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); Kyoto Protocol.
BIBLIoGRAPHY. Arkansas Economic Development Commission, www.1-800-arkansas.com (cited August 2007);
Pew Center on Global Climate Change, www.pewclimate .org (cited August 2007); State of Arkansas, Department of Environmental Quality, www.adeq.state.ar.us (cited August 2007); U.S. Department of Energy, www.eere.energy.gov (cited August 2007).
Wylene Rholetter Auburn University
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