Six Things That Will Change Our Lives If We Do Nothing About the Climate Crisis
By Robert Kopp
On Black Friday, while many Americans were shopping or sleeping off Thanksgiving, the federal government released the second volume of the congressionally mandated Fourth National Climate Assessment.
(Darko Vojinovic | Associated Press)
This report reaffirms what the scientific community has long known: climate change is real, caused by humans and here now.
Its impact on people and the environment grow more severe with every ton of greenhouse gas we emit into the atmosphere.
But it’s not too late to avoid the most detrimental effects of climate change if we get the planet on a course toward zero greenhouse gas emissions and take active measures to increase the resilience of at-risk communities and ecosystems.
The new report adds more than 1,600 pages of detail to this message. It evaluates the scientific literature on climate change’s potential impacts nationally and around the world.
It’s not written to be a litany of horribles, but rather is intended to provide a sound scientific basis for managing climate risk.
Here are some of the assessment’s findings about our region:
Cold snaps after warm winters threaten fruit crops
“Seasonal differences in Northeast temperature have decreased in recent years as winters have warmed three times faster than summers.”
Warmer winters can lead to earlier bud breaks — something that has become familiar to suburban New Jerseyans in recent years. At the same time, winter is still winter — climate change does not eliminate cold snaps, and so early blooms are often followed by hard freezes.
Indeed, work by my Rutgers colleague Jennifer Francis suggests that declining Arctic sea ice may cause cold waves to last longer.
This back-and-forth can lead to widespread loss of fruit crops, which are the backbone of New Jersey agriculture. Warmer winters also allow tree pests like the southern pine beetle and the emerald ash borer to expand their reach.
Warmer temperatures and more intense rain harm human health
(Chung Sung-Jun | Getty Images)
“Projected increases in temperature are expected to lead to substantially more premature deaths, hospital admissions, and emergency department visits due to heat across the Northeast.”
Northeastern cities are primarily concrete and asphalt, which trap heat. During heat waves, nighttime temperatures in the region’s big cities are generally several degrees higher than surrounding regions, leading to higher risk of heat-related death.
Those who experience seasonal allergies and asthma can expect their symptoms to worsen as pollen seasons lengthen and intensify. And late spring and early summer moisture breeds disease-carriers such as fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes and can lead to even higher rates of diseases like Lyme.
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