Trou­ble next door

The Southern Gazette - - Editorial -

Fri­day, the Fourth Na­tional Cli­mate As­sess­ment was re­leased. It’s a sober­ing look at the eco­nomic and phys­i­cal ef­fects of cli­mate change in the United States, and where those changes are lead­ing. At 1,656 pages, the re­port is mas­sive. Much of the news cov­er­age of the doc­u­ment fo­cused on the fact that its find­ings are di­a­met­ri­cally op­posed to the cli­mate be­liefs es­poused by the Amer­i­can pres­i­dent, and the fact the re­port was re­leased on the Fri­day af­ter Amer­i­can Thanks­giv­ing, a day where news sto­ries go to die.

One of the most in­ter­est­ing parts of the re­port for At­lantic Cana­di­ans might well be the part that’s clos­est to us: the fu­ture of the North­east­ern cor­ner of the United States, a re­gion that has much in com­mon with ours.

Cli­mate change is ex­pected to hit that re­gion hard. (You can find the chap­ter on­line here: https:// nca2018.glob­­ter/18/ )

Change is com­ing fast. “By 2035, and un­der both lower and higher sce­nar­ios, the North­east is pro­jected to be more than 3.6°F (2°C) warmer on av­er­age than dur­ing the prein­dus­trial era. This would be the largest in­crease in the con­tigu­ous United States and would oc­cur as much as two decades be­fore global av­er­age tem­per­a­tures reach a sim­i­lar mile­stone.”

Keep in mind that’s less than 20 years away — and it’s not just tem­per­a­tures chang­ing.

“The North­east has ex­pe­ri­enced some of the high­est rates of sea level rise and ocean warm­ing in the United States, and these ex­cep­tional in­creases rel­a­tive to other re­gions are pro­jected to con­tinue through the end of the cen­tury,” the re­port says. The North­east isn’t equipped for that: “an es­ti­mated 88 per cent of the North­east pop­u­la­tion lives on de­vel­oped coastal land­forms that have lim­ited abil­ity to nat­u­rally adapt to sea level rise.”

The re­port warns of in­creased coastal ero­sion, higher than ex­pe­ri­enced tides, and much more se­vere storm surges.

The eco­nomic ef­fects are al­ready sig­nif­i­cant and will in­crease. Warmer win­ters, with sig­nif­i­cantly more peak rain­fall, will bring a host of changes, from po­ten­tial dam­age to the for­est in­dus­try from in­creased num­bers of pests, to prob­lems for fruit trees that may blos­som early and then be se­ri­ously dam­aged by cold snaps. Fresh­wa­ter species are ex­pected to have lower pro­duc­tiv­ity due to higher wa­ter tem­per­a­tures.

The re­port sug­gests de­clines in ocean fish­eries, too, in­clud­ing lu­cra­tive species like cod, lob­ster and scal­lop.

“Fu­ture ocean warm­ing and acid­i­fi­ca­tion, which are ex­pected un­der all sce­nar­ios con­sid­ered, would af­fect fish stocks and fish­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able to coastal com­mu­ni­ties. Fish­eries tar­get­ing species at the south­ern ex­tent of their range have al­ready ex­pe­ri­enced sub­stan­tial de­clines in land­ings with ris­ing ocean tem­per­a­tures, and this pat­tern is pro­jected to con­tinue in the fu­ture.”

Its Fri­day re­lease may mean many Amer­i­cans won’t even hear about the re­port.

The ef­fects of cli­mate change?

Those will be more ob­vi­ous.

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