Answering the Kennedys Call to Action
The impacts of climate change are already being felt in communities across the country. More frequent and intense extreme weather and climate-related events, as well as changes in average climate conditions, are expected to continue to damage infrastructure, ecosystems, and social systems that provide essential benefits to communities, according to the just released U.S. Fourth National Climate Assessment..
Future climate change is expected to further disrupt many areas of life, exacerbating existing challenges to prosperity posed by aging and deteriorating infrastructure, stressed ecosystems, and economic inequality, said the study.
“Impacts within and across regions will not be distributed equally. People who are already vulnerable, including lower-income and other marginalized communities, have lower capacity to prepare for and cope with extreme weather and climate-related events and are expected to experience greater impacts.”
It is people that are most affected by climate change—global warming in particular that can result in massive population shifts away from rising waters, drought-affected areas with lack of water and the increased danger of wildfires—and so its effect on communities leads off the study results, especially in the western states with their prolonged droughts.
“Climate change has led to an increase in the area burned by wildfire in the western United States,” said an Atlantic Monthly summary of the report. “Analyses estimate that the area burned by wildfire from 1984 to 2015 was twice what would have burned had climate change not occurred. Furthermore, the area burned from 1916 to 2003 was more closely related to climate factors than to fire suppression, local fire management, or other non-climate factors.”
California in particular has been affected by heat waves this year and the prolonged six-year drought leading to the worst wildfires in California history. The just extinguished Paradise Camp Fire destroyed 18,793 structures and 85 lives lost to date, with several hundred residents still missing.
The last prolonged U.S. dry spell was the 1930’s Dustbowl during the Great Depression. It only compounded the economic damage with the loss of farmland and mass migration of dustbowl families immortalized in John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath.
And economic damage will be horrendous if nothing is done to mitigate the damage from a hotter planet and coastal areas subject to greater flooding.
The report says shoreline counties hold 49.4 million housing units, while homes and businesses worth at least $1.4 trillion sit within about 1/8th mile of the coast. Flooding from rising sea levels and storms is likely to destroy, or make unsuitable for use, billions of dollars of property by the middle of this century, with the Atlantic and Gulf coasts facing greater-than-average risk compared to other regions of the country …
Damage could be as much as $3.6 trillion in properties and value loss of no mitigation measures are taken, but $820 billion “where cost-effective adaptation measures are implemented.”
Climate change is becoming a topic too hot to ignore; even by the science-deniers who prefer to protect their pocketbooks rather than America’s communities and country.
Harlan Green © 2018