Prediciting climate change

Is it possible to know how climate change will affect where I live?

Climate change is a global phenomenon, but are all locations going to experience the effects equally? Natural disasters put financial, social and ecological stress on communities. In order to persevere we need to protect the socio-ecological systems we depend on for survival. It’s not just the increase in sea levels and hurricanes we have to worry about. There will be water shortages due to drought, rising carbon monoxide, and many more heat related deaths due to an increase in temperatures.  Climate change poses serious safety and health threats but many people are not aware of the dangers.

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reports that climate change threatens our health in the following ways:

Air pollution increases smog and burning coal and oil creates particle pollution which affects our breathing and increases respiratory dangers like asthma.

Extreme heat can kill the very young and the very old and hospitalize thousands.

Infectious diseases increase in hotter summers because insects like ticks and mosquitoes carrying diseases are more active for longer amounts of time.

Drought reduces water supplies and reduces food harvest quantities.

Flooding increases the risk of drinking water contamination and illnesses.

The above chart shows that the western half of the U.S and northern areas will have greater resilience to climate change!

The Environmental Protection Agency has developed the Climate Resilience Screening Index (CRSI) to gauge county and community resilience to risk profiles. It evaluates the many county and community vulnerabilities and other characteristics that will affect resilience. The extreme climate events we’re already experiencing are challenging communities to create environments resilient to adverse climate events. The index shows how acute the impact of climate change on community resilience will be on communities’ recoverability. Communities need to use this information to target and define the areas that need to be improved to increase their resilience. The 317-page report was released last November, 2017.

The CRSI is not just about extreme weather. The scientists identified five characteristics – risk, governance, society, built and natural environment – to include in their calculations of resilience.

Risk looks at the physical impact of climate change on each community. What are the chances of flooding? Are homes built in the floodplain or on landfill? For the other four characteristics – governance, society, built and natural environment – the scientists examine age, education, homelessness, language and health in each community’s population and much more. They look at recoverability factors like the local construction industry and if neighbors are likely to help one another. They look at the air quality, condition of the railways, roads and airports.

Metcalfe County in Kentucky has been rated the least resilient county in the U.S. It is due to its low scores on social cohesion, security and its built environment. It is in the EPA’s Region Four which is the least resilient region in the U.S. The region also includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

Our current president has questioned climate change and proposed cuts to climate research. In spite of that, the White House authorized the release of the CRSI report 10 months ago. The big question is how to act on this information to prepare the country. If there is not a countrywide approach, this report is still valuable to state, county, city and tribal governments and nonprofit organizations. They can use the information to determine and take the actions that will be the most effective and where state and federal funding will yield the greatest return.

The conclusion of the CRSI report says “this period is now the warmest in the history of modern civilization.” It is important to know that unlike many climate change reports, this one is not based on long-term projections. It is based on events that have occurred from 2000 – 2016, and events that are likely to occur only in the next 10 years. The report is a work in progress. The researchers are still honing their methods and rankings. They recently released a version of the CRSI which is adapted specifically for coastal counties within Region Four to be as accurate as possible for those areas.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is a scientific agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce. It focuses on the conditions of our oceans, major waterways and atmosphere. If you want to see NOAA’s climate projections for temperatures in 2090 for maximum, high and stabilized emissions, click here.

2010 on left, 2018 on right

Drought measurements in the U.S. in January, 2010 on the left and drought measurements in the U.S. in January, 2018.

If you are interested in where the research came from and how it is interpreted click here.

The Georgetown Climate Center provides a state by state overview of the steps each state is taking to prepare for the impacts of climate change. Listed at the bottom of each state’s page are additional research reports about the state’s predicted climate future.Just for kicks, The New York Times has a website that will tell you how many more days over 90° there are now than there were in the year you were born (data does not go earlier than 1960) for any town you enter.  For example, Charleston, SC usually had 63 days per year that reached at least 90°.  In 2017 it had 86 days that reached at least 90°, and in 2089 it is predicted to have 107 of those days.

Additional reading:

ReaearchGate provides an abstract of the CRSI and provides many related articles.

NASA provides Vital Signs of the Planet in their Global Climate Change section of their website.

This article predicts the five safest places to live in 2100.