This article is a continuation of our previous discussion about climate change. The change of one or 2° F in global average temperatures will have a severe impact on our lives. For every 2°F of warming, the crops that are currently grown will be reduced by five to 15 percent. During the heaviest precipitation events, the amount of rainfall will increase three to 5 percent. This increase in rainfall will result in major flooding events. We are already experiencing these types of floods and rainfalls across the nation. In addition, river stream flows will decrease five to 10 percent in some river basins, including the Arkansas and the Rio Grande. The increase in global temperature will also contribute to a 200 to 400 percent increase in areas burned by wildfire in the Western United States: Another event that we are already experiencing.
Extra cold or snowy winters do not mean that climate change is not happening. Even with global warming, colder than average seasons or colder than average years are expected. For example, the winters of 2010 in 2011 were colder than the average winters from the previous decades in the eastern United States. Extra snowy winters are expected because more water vapor is held in the atmosphere resulting in more intense rain and snow storms even in a warmer climate. However, we do expect the duration of snow seasons to decrease as the climate warms. Although, if it is still cold enough to snow the warmer climate will lead to bigger snowstorms.
Emissions of carbon dioxide from human activities have a big impact on Earth’s climate. As part of the Earth’s natural carbon cycle, plants, oceans and soils release and absorb large quantities of carbon dioxide, which balance out over time. The carbon dioxide from human activities, however, is not part of this natural balance. It has been confirmed that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are higher than they have been for at least 800 years by measuring the ice core. Human activities are the cause of elevated levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere which have led to global warming.
In the last 140 years, global sea levels have risen approximately 9 inches on average. As we have seen, coastal homes, beaches, roads, bridges and wildlife have all been severely impacted by the increase of coastal flooding. This trend will continue and grow more severe. Sea levels are expected to rise another 1.5 to 3 feet by the year 2100. Coastal storms and the associated storm surges will become more frequent and destructive as the levels continue to rise. A prime example is Super Storm Sandy that hit the East Coast, which can occur as frequently as once per decade if not more.
It’s not too late to impact how future climate change will affect us. We can reduce the amount of greenhouse gas pollution we release and lower the risk of much greater warming and severe consequences with appropriate actions by our governments, communities, individuals and businesses. All of the actions we can take will also improve our air quality.
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