‘Climate change is already affecting the American people’
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — Coming shortly after the National Climatic Data Center reported that 2012 was the warmest year on record for the U.S., a new federal report on global warming doesn’t mince words, starting with the first paragraph of the executive summary:
“Climate change is already affecting the American people. Certain types of weather events have become more frequent and/or intense, including heatwaves, heavy downpours, ain, in some regions, floods and droughts. Sea level is rising oceans are becoming more acidic and glaciers and arctic sea ice are melting.”
Along with laying out the science, the report cites experiences that most Americans can relate to. “Corn producers in Iowa, oyster growers in Washington State, and maple syrup producers in Vermont have observed changes in their local climate that are outside of their experience. So, too, have coastal planners from Florida to Maine, water managers in the arid Southwest and parts of the Southeast, and Native Americans on tribal lands across the nation.”
The report breaks down climate change impacts into seven areas, including human health, water and forests, and also takes a look at various regions of the country. It also explores the current state of adaptation.
The introductory letter acknowledges that global warming may have some beneficial effects, including a longer growing season, but explains that those positive effects are likely to be outweighed by detrimental impacts, “largely because society and its infrastructure were designed for the climate of the past, not for the rapidly changing climate of the present or the future.”
The basic facts are well-known; average U.S temperatures have increased by about 1.5 degrees since 1895, with more than 80 percent of that change in just the last 30 years. The most recent decade was the hottest on record, and temperatures are expected to climb another 2 to 4 degrees in the next few decades, and up to 10 degrees by the end of the century if greenhouse gas emissions aren’t curbed.
That will lead to increased chances of record-breaking high temperature extremes. It’s also clear there’s a trend toward persistently high nighttime temperatures, which have widespread impacts because people and livestock get no respite from the heat.
“In other places, prolonged periods of record high temperatures associated with droughts 36 contribute to conditions that are driving larger and more frequent wildfires. There is strong evidence to indicate that human influence on the climate has already of extreme heat events like the record-breaking summer of 2011 in Texas and Oklahoma.
The report is online at the federal advisory committee’s website, along with information on how to comment.