Climate Crisis

Climate Change: Global Temperature, Sea Level Rise, and US

  • It is virtually certain our world will continue to warm over this century and beyond.
  • The exact amount of warming that will occur in the coming century depends largely on the energy choices that we make now and in the next few decades.
 
The graph shows the average of a set of temperature simulations for the 20th century (black line), followed by projected temperatures for the 21st century based on a range of emissions scenarios (colored lines). The shaded areas around each line indicate the statistical spread (one standard deviation) provided by individual model runs.
The graph shows the average of a set of temperature simulations for the 20th century (black line), followed by projected temperatures for the 21st century based on a range of emissions scenarios (colored lines). The shaded areas around each line indicate the statistical spread (one standard deviation) provided by individual model runs.

 

The graph above demonstrates that people are a big wild card in the climate system. How fast will human population grow? How much energy will we choose to use? Will our primary sources of energy continue to be fossil fuels (such as coal, oil, and natural gas)? To what extent will we continue to slash and burn forested regions, and how fast will we reforest cleared areas? These are the types of choices that will determine our greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately drive the amount of warming Earth experiences.

Flooding, warming temperatures, and precipitation variability are all growing challenges in the Northeast, and increase the vulnerability of the region's residents, infrastructure, and ecosystems. States and cities are starting to build resilience by incorporating climate change into their planning processes.

  • Sea level along coastlines in the Northeast has risen approximately one foot since 1900—a rate that exceeds the global average. Due to local land subsidence in the region, the rate of sea level rise over the next century is expected to continue exceeding global levels.
  • The Northeast has seen a greater increase in extreme precipitation than any other region in the United States: the amount of precipitation falling in very heavy events between 1958 and 2010 increased by more than 70 percent. The frequency of heavy downpours is projected to continue increasing as the century progresses.
  • The frequency, intensity, and duration of heat waves in the region is expected to increase through the next century, while the frequency, intensity, and duration of cold air outbreaks is expected to decrease.
  • Climate change impacts in the Northeast—including coastal and riverine flooding and heat waves—will challenge its environmental, social, and economic systems, increasing the vulnerability of its residents, especially its most disadvantaged populations.
  • Public and private infrastructure in the Northeast—buildings, roads, rail lines, airport facilities, and ports—will be increasingly compromised by climate-related hazards over the next century, as will agriculture, fisheries, and ecosystems.
  • Climate change risks are increasingly being incorporated into state and municipal planning processes; however, implementation of adaptation and resilience-building measures is just beginning.

A critical issue for the Northeast is addressing its aging infrastructure: roads, bridges, railroad lines, water and wastewater pipelines, culverts, and electrical power networks. The region has the oldest industry and building inventory in the United States, much of which was built along the coast and in estuaries—both of which are highly vulnerable to flooding.

The region's climate is also changing. Recent State of the Climate reports point out the likely impacts of a changing climate on both human and natural resources, which are threatened by rising temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, and a warming ocean, especially in the Gulf of Maine. The stretch of coastline from the tip of the Delmarva Peninsula in Virginia to the elbow of Cape Cod in Massachusetts is experiencing the greatest increase in sea level rise rate globally: 2 to 3.7 mm per year—more than three times the global average.

(Map) Local sea level trends in the Northeast region. (Graph) Observed sea level rise in Philadelphia, PA, has significantly exceeded the global average of eight inches over the past century, increasing the risk of impacts to critical urban infrastructure in low-lying areas. Over 100 years (1901–2012), sea level increased 1.2 feet.
(Map) Local sea level trends in the Northeast region. (Graph) Observed sea level rise in Philadelphia, PA, has significantly exceeded the global average of eight inches over the past century, increasing the risk of impacts to critical urban infrastructure in low-lying areas. Over 100 years (1901–2012), sea level increased 1.2 feet.

Climate change is about the increase in the severity of storms which means that storms like Sandy and Isaac, which devastated communities from Boston to Biloxi, will become more of the norm. our sisters and brothers in the Bahamas, as well as Inuit communities in Kivalina, Alaska, and communities in Thibodaux, Louisiana and beyond, who will be losing their homes to rising sea levels in the coming few years.

Climate change and other environmental injustices are about US.

Climate change and environmental injustice are about sisters and brothers from West Virginia to Tennessee who are breathing toxic ash from blasting for mountain top removal.

Environmental injustice and climate change are about the fact that in many communities it is far easier to find a bag of Cheetos than a carton of strawberries and this only stands to get worse as drought and flooding impact the availability and affordability of nutritious food.

What does it mean to advance climate justice?  How do we do it?  There are many ways.

Speaking truth to power. Getting involved in decision making spaces. Investigating and documenting injustice.

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