Too Late. Climate Change is Here
Hello Friends and welcome. This is the second article in a series on Climate Change, written to better educate myself and others on the causes and effects of global warming.
Wether you believe “Climate Change” to be a result of humanity’s impact on our planet or a naturally occurring phenomena, does not make much difference at this point. Our global climate is changing and already influencing weather patterns.
Heat waves, droughts, and intense rain events have increased in frequency during the last 50 years and extreme weather events are going to continue to escalate on into the unforeseeable future. Winter temperatures across the Great Plains and Midwest are now some 7º warmer than historical norms. In the Northwest, the spring snow pack has already declined 25 percent over the past 40 to 70 years. In California, where I live, we are experiencing our second major drought in 40 years which has resulted in water restrictions and has forced many of our Central Coast farmers to plow down orchards and leave fertile farmland untended. And this is just some of the early symptoms of climate change in the US.
NASA scientist project the tropics will likely receive less rain as the planet warms, while the polar regions will receive more precipitation, lending to rising sea levels—sea levels already on the rise since the 1800’s. Over the last two decades those early numbers have increased and will continue to build as Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets melt, shedding about 125 billion tons of ice per year—enough to raise sea levels by 0.35 millimeters (0.01 inches) per year and adding onto the already 3 millimeters per year increase in sea levels. If the melting accelerates beyond this, the increase in sea level could be significantly higher. A problem already evidenced if you are living in Charleston, Carolina, USA or one of South Carolina’s other coastal communities. In an October 22 report from the real estate firm CBRE, as of 2005, more than $1 trillion dollars in assets across 17 coastal metropolitan areas in the US were exposed to potential losses to catastrophic 100-year floods.
So what does that mean for us in the US?
Those living in low-lying coastal areas will be impacted by rising sea levels, tidal surges and storms. More intense rains and hurricanes and rising sea levels will lead to more severe flooding and potential loss of property and life. As tropical temperature zones expand, the reach of some infectious diseases, such as malaria, will change. Hotter summers and longer fire seasons, along with more frequent fires will lead to more cases of heat stroke and deaths, loss of property and increased demands on emergency services. Higher levels of near-surface ozone and smoke will cause more ‘code red’ air quality days. Warmer days and intense droughts will lead to more sever water rationing, changes to current agricultural practices and dramatic changes to long established ecosystems. A projected 20 to 30 percent of plant and animal species will be threatened with extinction.
“On a longer time scale, fresh water will become scarcer, especially during the summer, as mountain glaciers disappear, particularly in Asia and parts of North America.”
Not all the news is bad. One up side is the longer growing season in some parts of the US and around the globe. However, taking advantage of a longer growing season will present difficulties if we haven’t a water supply for crops.
This is just one of the many dilemmas we will be facing as we learn to adapt to our new environments and live with climate change.
~ K. L. Parry