By: Charles Roop | WCTV Pinpoint Weather
November 23, 2018
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) — The Earth’s climate is “changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization” and will have impacts on the United Sates’ health and economy, according to a multi-federal-agency report released Friday afternoon.
The United States Global Change Research Program, which is mandated by law to release a report “no less than every four years”, released the The Fourth National Climate Assessment that lists the impacts to the U.S. The first volume, which discussed more of the science, was released in 2017.
The highly-detailed report states that climate change will have impacts on variables such the economy, energy, water supply, health and agriculture.
Water abundance and quality will be a concern across the country, according to the report. Places such as the Midwest and parts of the South have seen as high as 11 cubic kilometers of groundwater depletion per year in the previous decade. But a few places such as southeastern Georgia have had a slight net gain - up to half a cubic kilometer per year of groundwater added. But infrastructure is also another concern as heavy rain events become more common in some locations, leaving drainage systems overwhelmed.
Energy consumption is expected to increase and, therefore, increase costs if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current pace, according to the report. Many areas in the country - including the Big Bend and South Georgia - could see a 10 to 15 percent increase in energy expenditures. A warming world would also impact the grid and energy-gathering methods. For instance, sea level rise would disrupt and damage onshore energy operations and facilities, causing delays in production. Increased impacts from stronger hurricanes and other extreme events would also damage the electrical grid more frequently, adding to the cost of infrastructure reconstruction.
The report noted that food production would also be put at higher risk with shifting rain patterns and extreme temperatures. Increased frequency and duration of drought and high temperatures would negatively impact yields of commodity crops such as corn, soybean, cotton and oats. Limited water availability would also impact irrigation of crops, further reducing crop quantity and quality.
Human health would also be impacted by increasing heat-related illnesses and mosquito-borne diseases, according to the report. Hospital and emergency room records found that hot days are associated with an increase in heat-related illnesses, the report noted. Those that are not either accustomed to the conditions or are not in climate-controlled locations would be the most vulnerable. Increased temperatures, along with increased rainfall in some locations, would allow for mosquitoes and other insects to become more common and spread diseases such as Zika and West Nile viruses. Places like the Big Bend have a “high” potential of abundance of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which can carry diseases like Zika and chikungunya, the report noted.
In the Southeast, the study also found that many locations have had longer freeze-free season lengths since the 1990s. They also found that the number of high-rainfall days (greater than 3 inches) has increased overall in the Southeast since 1980s, but some locations, such as in and near Tallahassee, have seen a decrease in days.
The report stresses that climate adaptation practices are needed, but have been “hindered by an assumption that climate conditions are and will be similar to those in the past.” The report said that planners and decision makers need to think about reducing exposure to impacts for areas at risk.
Reductions in human-created greenhouse gases would also need to be performed to reduce the impacts in the U.S. If course corrections are not done, the report says a that the country’s GDP could take a 2-percent hit under a temperature increase of 5 to 6 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century. The worst case scenario shown would be 10 percent of the GDP with a 13-degree increase.
You can find the full report by clicking here.
Charles Roop is a meteorologist at WCTV. He has earned a Bachelor of Science in Geography from the University of Florida and a Master of Science in Geoscience (Operational Meteorology) from Mississippi State University.