Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A Very Different Future for the Northeast

The Union of Concerned Scientists, which used to be more preoccupied with nuclear arms and proliferation than climate, has issued the results of a study on the impact of climate change on the Northeast U.S., and it's not pretty according to the Washington Post. The study will be published in the journal "Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change."

Unless there is global abatement of emissions that cause global warming, the region may see winters that average 8 to 12 degrees warmer and summers that average 6 to 14 degrees hotter than current temperatures by the end of this century. Those conditions, in turn, could kill of spruce and hemlock forests, shut down the ski industry and deliver 30 days of over 100-degree heat each year to Philadelphia.

As the New York Times (subscription required) interpreted the report:

Without reductions in emissions, sea levels could rise, inundating coastal areas on southern Long Island and pushing water over parts of lower Manhattan, flooding the financial district and pouring water into the subways, making them inoperable.
New York, Boston and Atlantic City would experience regular disatrous flooding and songbird populations would completely disappear. Though there might be some upside to the changes - longer growing seasons for northern farmers, and lower heating bills for residents - the disruptive elements of such drastic change would prove very expensive.

Some of these effects could be mitigated by prompt changes in global habits around carbon emissions, but "even under the best-case emission-lowering scenario, global warming will bring unprecedented damage to the coastline and will require enormous expenditures to maintain and replace roads, bridges and other infrastructure."

Restoring what the Northeast considers to be its normal climate "would require industrialized nations to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions to 80 percent below levels in 2000, and for developing nations to make substantial cuts, too." Of course, we're nowhere near seeing agreement to take such actions.

No comments: