Monday, February 18, 2013
How Climate Change REALLY Affects Us.
The planet keeps getting hotter. Especially in America, where 2012 was the warmest year ever recorded, by far. Every few years, the U.S. federal government engages hundreds of experts to assess the impacts of climate change, now and in the future.
From agriculture to infrastructure to how humans consume energy, the National Climate Assessment Development Advisory Committee spotlights how a warming world may bring widespread disruption.
Farmers will see declines in some crops, while others will reap increased yields. Won't more atmospheric carbon mean longer growing seasons? Not quite. Over the next several decades, the yield of virtually every crop in California's fertile Central Valley, from corn to wheat to rice and cotton, will drop by up to 30 percent, researchers expect.
Lackluster pollination, driven by declines in bees due partly to the changing climate, is one reason. Government scientists also expect the warmer climate to shorten the length of the frosting season necessary for many crops to grow in the spring. Aside from yields, climate change will also affect food processing, storage, and transportation—industries that require an increasing amount of expensive water and energy as global demand rises—leading to higher food prices.
More energy demand, higher prices, more climate change.
The worldwide trend is stunning. Since 1970, global demand for heating has decreased, while demand for cooling has shot up. Higher temperatures over the next decade, mixed with a growing global population, will continue to increase energy demand, accelerating the loop of emissions that cause climate change that cause more emissions. Rain, meanwhile, is projected to drop up to 40 percent in some places. Less water, a key ingredient in power production, will constrain energy generation systems. What's more, government analysts anticipate that a higher projected chance of flooding in certain areas will risk inundating power generators and disrupting transmission routes. Aging transportation infrastructures won't mix well with extreme weather. Large storms and extreme weather have already shown their might. The impact on transportation infrastructure won't be pretty, on par with superstorm Sandy's destruction in 2012. But scientists expect similar scenarios to increase in regions that will become more vulnerable to changing weather.
Several states, including Vermont, Tennessee, Iowa, and Missouri, have already experienced severe weather that damaged roads, bridges, and railroad tracks. Some engineers worry that heavy demands on aging infrastructure can create unreliable routes for the transport of vital commodities like food, fuel, and water.
Droughts will become more common virtually everywhere.
The world has a finite amount of water, and new demands, especially from a growing population, will stretch that supply. Watersheds in the southwestern U.S., including the Rockies and the Rio Grande, will encounter supply problems as the runoff that replenishes them declines. Perhaps worse, longer droughts in formerly fertile regions will mean less certainty for farmers and water-dependent industries.
Cases of allergies and asthma will continue to rise.
Prepare yourself for dirtier air. Climate change is expected to increase atmospheric ozone—widely known to lead to decreased lung function—up to ten parts per billion. Cases of asthma are expected to jump by up to 10 percent in urban areas such as New York City. Longer pollen seasons will lead to more air-based allergies, scientists say, and with increasing carbon dioxide, the pollen count could nearly double from 2000 levels.
Cities could become more dangerous than suburban areas.
Cities have become more attractive since 2000, owing mainly to the proximity of major conveniences. But there's a big downside. Natural disasters wrought by climate change—such as increased hurricanes and more severe storms—mean that any disruption could impact millions of people's lives. Only some cities have devised plans to deal with these events. Shutting down New York City's subway system and issuing advance evacuation orders to some parts of New York and New Jersey in advance of superstorm Sandy is thought to have saved thousands of homes and lives.
Keeping yourself informed is the best way to stay ahead. Knowledge is power and it isn't too late. For more updates on our Environment, visit http://www1.nationalgeographic.com/