Feds Say Global Warming's Effects Can Be Seen in Our Own Backyards

By Eliza Strickland | June 17, 2009 4:00 pm

heat mapA new report from the federal government loudly makes the point that global warming is already happening, and not just in the remote reaches of Alaska. “This report stresses that climate change has immediate and local impacts,” said Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “It literally affects people in their backyards” [Science News]. The report details the impacts to U.S. infrastructure like roads, sewage plants, and offshore oil drilling operations, and also takes note of the expected effects on sundry industries, from fishing in the northwest to maple sugar production in New England.

The report was prepared by the United States Global Change Research Program, which includes work from 13 federal agencies and the White House; the group is required to report once a decade on the state of the global environment. While the document contains little new science on global warming, experts say it’s a valuable synthesis of previous findings. “It’s not a document for scientists. It’s not even a document for policymakers,” said Katharine Hayhoe, a geosciences professor … and one of 28 report co-authors. “It’s a document for every individual citizen who wants to know why they should care about climate change” [Scientific American].

If emissions of carbon dioxide, the principal heat-trapping gas that causes global warming, continue to increase, the continental United States will warm by 7 to 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit by 2090, the report says. With such a temperature rise, no part of the country will be spared from drastic changes. In the Northwest, shrinking snowpacks will reduce summertime stream flow, straining water resources. In Alaska, summers will be hotter and drier, and as a result the number of wildfires and insect infestations will increase. In the Southeast, hurricanes and sea level rise will conspire to boost damages from storm surges. A large number of ecosystems, from trout-filled streams of the Northwest to coral reefs off the Florida coasts, will suffer, as will the tourism and recreation that they support, the report suggests [Science News].

The report has been in the works for several years, and an earlier draft of the document was released online last July by the Bush administration. Still, the timing of the final report’s release seems fortuitous. A bill to cap U.S. carbon emissions, sponsored by Democratic Representatives Henry Waxman and Edward Markey, is making its way through Congress and could be up for a vote in the House of Representatives as soon as next week [Time]. The report’s authors say, however, that it was not meant to back a specific policy proposal, but they underscored the consequences of failing to reduce carbon dioxide emissions [Reuters].

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Image: United States Global Change Research Program. Two estimates of the number of days when temperatures reach above 100 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century. 

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment
  • QUASAR

    How long will it take for nature to recover by itself after we ruin it with an environmental catastrophe?

  • http://clubneko.net Nick

    I’ll say!

    We used to have mild springs and warm but not desert-like summers in the California central valley. Now we’ll have a week of 100+ days in May, 90+ all June but strangely in the 40s at night, and then a week or two in July of 110+ days.

    One year we had to run our AC pretty much 24/7 in July (pregnant lady in the house). It never got below 80° in the house during the day. $500 power bill.

    Our in our back yard, which is well-watered and well cared for, we have bare patches where ground cover hasn’t taken over yet, and it’s developing 6″ deep cracks in the earth, sometimes overnight.

  • Shaithis

    What would motivate the United States Global Change Research Program to present data that is contrary to it’s own program? How can you know it’s an unbiased report? Statistics can be bent and skewed toward any conclusion you want. So far, I haven’t seen any evidence of climate change.

  • Jo

    @Shaithis: Dismissing all evidence as invalid because you consider it to be deliberately misinterpreted or biased is a pretty good way to never see “any evidence of climate change.”

  • brotim

    So, all we need to do is give up heating and cooling our homes, quit driving cars and such and eat our food cold, which cannot include beef since cows emit CO2 and stop making anything…

    You first!

    ;-)

    Then of course when we stop all these things, the Chinese will start up with a vengeance where we left off…

    I’m personally planting a coupla trees. They should offset my CO2 footprint…

  • http://Cooling? jeri meaux

    The last few years the overall global temperature has actually cooled. We’ve had the wettest and coolest spring in over 50 years. I’ve only watered the yard once since last October–extraodinarily unusual for Utah. When I went out to reconnoiter my garden this morning, I could actually see my breath! Right now I need a little of that global warming!

  • brotim

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this isn’t serious. What I am saying is that things will have to get very drastic before present “solutions” will be viable. Putting the genie back in the bottle is not a reasonable option. Until we come up with something better, we are pretty much stuck ruling in Hell…

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