Environment Counts | Global climate change impacts in the US
Author: Geoff Zeiss – Published At: 2011-10-02 21:24 – (766 Reads)
Global temperature has increased over the past 50 years, due primarily to human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gases. Climate-related changes already observed in the US and its coastal waters include increases in heavy downpours, temperature and sea level; rapidly retreating glaciers; thawing permafrost; lengthening growing seasons and ice-free seasons in the ocean and on lakes and rivers; earlier snowmelt; and alterations in river flows.
The most recent report Global Climate Change Impacts in the US, which was issued June, 2009, summarizes the science and the impacts of climate change on the United States. This report provides many of the scientific underpinnings for effective decisions to be made â€“ at the national and at the regional level.
Its major conclusions are that
- Global temperature has increased over the past 50 years. This observed increase is due primarily to human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gases.
- Climate-related changes are already observed in the United States and its coastal waters. These include increases in heavy downpours, rising temperature and sea level, rapidly retreating glaciers, thawing permafrost, lengthening growing seasons, lengthening ice-free seasons in the ocean and on lakes and rivers, earlier snowmelt, and alterations in river flows.
- Climate changes are already affecting water, energy, transportation, agriculture, ecosystems, and health. These impacts are different from region to region and will grow under projected climate change.
- Drought, related to reduced precipitation, increased evaporation, and increased water loss from plants, is an important issue in many regions, especially in the West. Floods and water quality problems are likely to be amplified by climate change in most regions. Declines in mountain snowpack are important in the West and Alaska where snowpack provides vital natural water storage.
- Agriculture is considered one of the sectors most adaptable to changes in climate. However, increased heat, pests, water stress, diseases, and weather extremes will pose adaptation challenges for crop and livestock production.
- Sea-level rise and storm surge place many U.S. coastal areas at increasing risk of erosion and flooding, especially along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, Pacific Islands, and parts of Alaska. Energy and transportation infrastructure and other property in coastal areas are very likely to be adversely affected.
- Health impacts of climate change are related to heat stress, waterborne diseases, poor air quality, extreme weather events, and diseases transmitted by insects and rodents.
- Climate change will combine with pollution, population growth, overuse of resources, urbanization, and other social, economic, and environmental stresses to create larger impacts than from any of these factors alone.
- Thresholds determine, for example, the presence of sea ice and permafrost, and the survival of species, from fish to insect pests, with implications for society. With further climate change, the crossing of additional thresholds is expected.
- The amount and rate of future climate change depend primarily on current and future human-caused emissions of heat-trapping gases and airborne particles. Responses involve reducing emissions to limit future warming, and adapting to the changes that are unavoidable.