How cli­mate change will af­fect Conn.

The News-Times (Sunday) - - News - ROBERT MILLER Con­tact Robert Miller at earth­mat­ter­srgm@gmail.com

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists of­ten talk about the ef­fects of cli­mate change in vague terms of the changes it will bring on their chil­dren’s and their grand­chil­dren’s lives.

How does a dozen years sound? Or 22 years? Does that get your at­ten­tion?

Those are the time lim­its in­cluded in the new re­port on cli­mate change is­sued by the UN’s In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change, or IPCC. It states, in de­fin­i­tive lan­guage, that we have that amount of time to at least keep the worst ef­fects of cli­mate change at bay.

“It hits hard,” said Mitch Wa­gener, pro­fes­sor of bi­o­log­i­cal and en­vi­ron­men­tal sci­ence at Western Con­necti­cut State Uni­ver­sity in Dan­bury.

And it will hit here. The gen­eral con­sen­sus is that cli­mate change will make south­ern New Eng­land a warmer, wet­ter, stormier place to live.

“We’re al­ready had storms that are greater in fre­quency and in­ten­sity,” said Chris Col­libee, spokesman for the state De­part­ment of En­ergy and En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion.

It will mean changes in agri­cul­ture, in the fish that swim in the Long Is­land Sound and the birds that nest in our trees.

It means Long Is­land Sound could rise by as much as 20 inches by 2050, ac­cord­ing to the Con­necti­cut In­sti­tute for Re­liance and Cli­mate Adapt­abil­ity — a huge change to the state’s coast­line and its ecosys­tems. The state and coastal towns are now us­ing that fig­ure when they plan for coastal de­vel­op­ment, said in­sti­tute di­rec­tor James O’Don­nell.

It could even mean a change in the mi­cro­bial life in our soil.

Han­nah Reynolds, an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy at Western, said there’s ev­i­dence pro­longed droughts will di­min­ish the soil’s mi­cro­bial life. Wet­ter, warmer weather will let bac­te­ria and fungi — good and bad — flour­ish.

“It’s the hu­mid­ity that’s im­por­tant,” she said.

And it will cause mas­sive dis­rup­tions in global agri­cul­ture, which will even­tu­ally come round to us.

Manoj Misra, an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of so­cial sciences at Western who stud­ies world agri­cul­tural prac­tices, said some coun­tries, like Bangladesh, are al­ready liv­ing with cli­mate refugees. Peo­ple are aban­don­ing cy­clone-rav­ished coastal vil­lages there and mov­ing in­land. Much of South­east Asia, he said, lives un­der the same threat.

“There are bil­lions of peo­ple there,” he said. “It’s a poverty-stricken re­gion and peo­ple don’t have the in­fras­truc­ture to help them.”

Misra said he’s read the re­cent UN re­port and is pes­simistic about the world hav­ing the will to make the rad­i­cal changes the re­port calls for.

“It’s not go­ing to hap­pen,” he said.

The UN formed the IPCC in 1988 to study cli­mate change, and has is­sued five ma­jor re­ports on the is­sue since then.

The re­port is­sued last week in­volved 91 sci­en­tists from 40 coun­tries re­view­ing 6,000 sci­en­tific stud­ies.

Its con­clu­sion is this: Global tem­per­a­tures have risen about 1 de­gree Cel­sius, or 1.8 de­grees Fahren­heit over pre-in­dus­trial lev­els. That’s enough to make global warm­ing the re­al­ity we’re liv­ing with to­day.

If the na­tions of the world make rad­i­cal changes to re­duce the amount of green­houses gases they now re­lease into the at­mos­phere by 2030, those changes could check the rise in tem­per­a­ture to about 1.5 de­grees C, or about 2.7 de­grees F, by 2040.

That will still pro­foundly al­ter the world’s ecosys­tems as we know them to­day, the re­port said. But it will mit­i­gate some of the dam­age and give so­ci­ety a chance at adapt­ing to the new world.

If left unchecked, the re­port said, tem­per­a­tures will rise by 2 de­grees C, or 3.6 de­grees F, by 2040. That will bring about pro­found, dis­as­trous changes to the world.

Since Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump was elected in 2016, his ad­min­is­tra­tion has re­sponded to any and all cli­mate change warn­ings by dou­bling down on the use of the fu­els — pri­mar­ily coal and oil — that cause the prob­lem and by ig­nor­ing sci­ence in gen­eral.

Which leaves states like Con­necti­cut car­ry­ing on the work the fed­eral gov­ern­ment re­fuses to con­sider, the DEEP’s Col­libee said.

It’s pro­moted the use of elec­tric cars and re­new­able en­ergy. It’s one of 16 states, plus Puerto Rico, pledg­ing to abide by the goals of the 2015 Paris Ac­cords, the in­ter­na­tional cli­mate treaty that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion ditched in 2017.

But it can­not do this work alone.

“Pub­lic wa­ter, and air pol­lu­tion know no bound­aries,” Col­libee said. “This is a lo­cal prob­lem. It’s a state and na­tional and in­ter­na­tional prob­lem.”

And Wa­gener of Western said if peo­ple con­sider the dam­age cli­mate change will do to peo­ple’s lives, it’s not only an en­vi­ron­men­tal prob­lem.

“It’s a moral is­sue,” he said.

Matthew Brown / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Canada geese en­joy the in­let as kayak­ers make their re­turn to Cove Is­land in Nor­walk af­ter spend­ing the af­ter­noon on the wa­ters of the Long Is­land Sound on Sept. 1.

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