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The deluge now: Climate change today in our own backyards

David Beach  |  05/09/14 @ 11:00am  |  Posted in Clean energy

The latest required reading about the most important issue facing humanity is the National Climate Assessment, released May 6 by the U.S. government. The upshot: climate change is happening sooner and with more harmful impacts than previously feared. And the longer we wait to reduce the carbon pollution that is warming the planet, the harder and more costly the transition will be.

Observed U.S. Temperature Change Map<br />Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Climatic Data Center

In recent months there has been an outpouring of scientific updates on climate change. The global scientific community weighed in with the latest series of reports from the Intergovernmental on Climate Change (IPCC). And the biggest scientific organization, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) launched a special “What We Know” website to communicate the scientific consensus that climate change is happening and the risks are real.

This week, the U.S. government issued the National Climate Assessment, a consensus report from hundreds of climate experts, federal agencies, and a panel of the National Academy of Sciences. The overall message:

"Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present. Corn producers in Iowa, oyster growers in Washington State, and maple syrup producers in Vermont are all observing climate-related changes that are outside of recent experience. So, too, are coastal planners in Florida, water managers in the arid Southwest, city dwellers from Phoenix to New York, and Native Peoples on tribal lands from Louisiana to Alaska. This National Climate Assessment concludes that the evidence of human-induced climate change continues to strengthen and that impacts are increasing across the country."

The National Assessment was released as a reader-friendly website, which I encourage you to check out. There’s also a handy FAQ document with answers to the typical questions people have about climate issues.

Impacts in the Midwest

An especially interesting part of the assessment is the section on regional climate impacts. Here are impacts we can expect in the Midwest:

  • Agriculture: In the next few decades, longer growing seasons and rising carbon dioxide levels will increase yields of some crops, though those benefits will be progressively offset by extreme weather events. Though adaptation options can reduce some of the detrimental effects, in the long term, the combined stresses associated with climate change are expected to decrease agricultural productivity.
  • Forests: The composition of the region’s forests is expected to change as rising temperatures drive habitats for many tree species northward. The role of the region’s forests as a net absorber of carbon is at risk from disruptions to forest ecosystems, in part due to climate change.
  • Public health: Increased heat wave intensity and frequency, increased humidity, degraded air quality, and reduced water quality will increase public health risks.
  • Fossil-fuel dependent electricity system: The Midwest has a highly energy-intensive economy with per capita emissions of greenhouse gases more than 20% higher than the national average. The region also has a large and increasingly utilized potential to reduce emissions that cause climate change.
  • Increased rainfall and flooding: Extreme rainfall events and flooding have increased during the last century, and these trends are expected to continue, causing erosion, declining water quality, and negative impacts on transportation, agriculture, human health, and infrastructure.
  • Increased risks to the Great Lakes: Climate change will exacerbate a range of risks to the Great Lakes, including changes in the range and distribution of certain fish species, increased invasive species and harmful blooms of algae, and declining beach health. Ice cover declines will lengthen the commercial navigation season.

Bad energy in Ohio

When the climate science is clearer and more ominous than ever, it’s tragic that Ohio is retreating from common-sense energy policies. As of May 9, the Ohio General Assembly is set to pass SB 310, a bill that would gut the state’s effective programs to promote energy efficiency and renewables like wind and solar. Legislators are doing this even though business groups have said the programs have helped Ohio companies save money and create jobs.

Go here to learn more about SB 310 and how to help stop it

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