RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Yesterday, a team of 28 climate scientists from U.S. government agencies, universities, and independent research institutions released a comprehensive report detailing how climate change will affect, and has already begun to affect, the health and economic and social well-being of the United States.
THE DETAILS: This report was published by the government’s U.S. Global Change Research Program, and is a compilation of the most up-to-date research available on global warming. The report confirms previous findings that rising temperatures are a result of human activity, and it highlights some of the problems associated with global warming that we’re already beginning to see in many parts of the country: prolonged droughts, more intense heat waves, and more severe weather events like floods.
Here are a few of the report’s other findings:
• Extreme heat waves will not only affect human health, but also transportation and energy systems, as well as crop and livestock production.
• Increased heavy downpours will lead to increased flooding, and they’ll speed up snow melt, which impacts levels and availability of drinking water in the western and southwestern U.S.
• Rising water temperatures and ocean acidification threaten coral reefs and the rich ecosystems they support, adversely affecting the tourism and seafood industries.
• Insect infestations and wildfires are already increasing and are projected to increase further in a warming climate.
• Local sea-level rise of more than three feet, on top of storm surges, will increasingly threaten homes and other coastal infrastructure. Coastal flooding will become more frequent and severe, and coastal land will increasingly be lost to the rising seas.
The scientists also used computer modeling to compare the long-term effects of climate change if we take immediate action to curb our nation’s greenhouse-gas emissions versus if we continue with business as usual. They found that we could significantly moderate rising temperatures and increasing precipitation if we take steps now to cut down on pollution and greenhouse gases.
“Implementing sizable and sustained reductions in carbon dioxide emissions as soon as possible would significantly reduce the pace and the overall amount of climate change,” the authors write, “and would be more effective than reductions of the same size initiated later.”
In a press conference announcing the report, Donald Wuebbles, PhD, one the report’s authors, said, “I remain optimistic that we can do something about this. We do need to act sooner rather than later because we want to avoid the worst changes, looking at these projections. We can do something about it, but we do need to act soon.”
Published on: June 17, 2009