Weatherdem's Weblog

Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

America Post-2050 With Climate Change

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The good news is slightly more attention is being paid to the issue of climate change in the media. The bad news is the dates being used don’t reflect the latest research to the degree they should. Since we have to take the bad with the good, I’m going to take a quick look at how the issue was handled recently. This Lifestyle article at MSN was about America post-2100. But since the overwhelming majority of climate change metrics are currently worse (as measured by observations) than they were forecasted to be for the 2007 IPCC Report, and since additional research since the Report was issued has moved up timelines for climate change effects, the article should relay to readers that the conditions within more accurately reflect post-2050 America than post-2100 America. But without further ado, let’s look at exactly what effects were discussed.

Pacific Northwest: Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska
What we could see in 2100 post-2050: Heavier rains, dramatic warming over higher latitudes and sea-level rise.  According to recent research, Alaska has already experienced a 3.6 degree Fahrenheit increase since 1951, much more than the rest of America. The Northwest will also be affected by the forecasted two to three feet (or as much as 3-7 feet, according to more recent research) of sea level rise.

Rocky Mountains: Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and Montana
What we could see in 2100 post-2050: Shorter snow season, early snow-melt, longer and more intense drought, wildfire and water issues.

Northeast: Virginia to Maine
What we could see in 2100 post-2050: More severe storms in the winter and summer, extreme sea level rise and flooding. Indeed, a couple of recent journal articles I’ve read point out that if the land-based West Antarctica ice sheets melt this century, sea levels won’t rise by the same amount all over the globe. Sea levels off the U.S. Northeast coast will rise a couple of meters more than other places. Unfortunately, that region is also one of the most densely populated by people.

Southeast: The Gulf Coast states, up to Carolina
What we could see in 2100 post-2050: Hurricanes, wind damage, storm surges, flooding, extra sea level rise. Lots of people, lots of infrastructure. That means lots of money to either protect everything and everybody or move them inland.

The Northern Plains, Midwest and Great Lakes
What we could see in 2100 post-2050: Stronger storms (i.e. tornadoes, heavy rain events) occurring throughout the year as well as warmer winters. More intense storm systems mean increased chances of flash flooding across the region.

Southwest: Arizona, New Mexico, California and Nevada
What we could see in 2100 post-2050: Drought and water shortages, heat waves and wildfire.

By not choosing to pay to address these potential effects now, we choose to pay more for them later. Protection along the coasts, more flood defense systems, dropping water tables higher rates of disease associated with warmer conditions, among others, will all have an adverse financial effect. Larger clean-up and rescue efforts will cost more. Building insurance rates will skyrocket – forcing more and more people to go without or move inland whether the coasts are protected or not. What will loss of part of population centers mean for businesses and urban cores?

These changes will more likely occur sooner rather than later.  More people in the U.S. need to understand that potential so that more realistic policies can be set.

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