In a new study released Tuesday by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, environmental scientists warned that temperature increases in New England over the next century will be higher than any change experienced by the region in the past 10,000 years, and this could have devastating effects on the region’s natural habitats.
The report, titled “Preparing For A Changing Climate: The Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change,” was designed to help ordinary people understand the impact global warming could have on New England — specifically on forestry, water resources and human health. It explained in layman’s terms the local effects of global climate change and concluded that climate changes will profoundly affect the way people think of New England. The analysis was one of 16 performed in the nation.
Scientists predicted that by 2090, the average regional temperature will increase by six to 10 degrees and that precipitation will increase by 10 to 30 percent, depending on which forecasting model is used.
“Either temperature increase would be greater than any climate change experienced by the region in the past 10,000 years,” the report stated.
These changes may sound small, but they will have a very serious impact, scientists said Tuesday in a conference call open to the media.
Barry Keim, a climatologist from New Hampshire; George Hurtt, an environmental modeler; and Henry Walker, a marine biologist with the EPA’s Long Island Sound office, worked with several other scientists for four years on the study in conjunction with Lynn Carter of the National Assessment Coordination office to carefully analyze records dating as far back as 1895.
The study compared the average yearly temperature increase in the United States with average yearly changes in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and upstate New York. They found that nationwide, the average temperature has increased by 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit in the past 105 years — the same amount as New Hampshire’s average increase.
Maine’s average temperature decreased by 0.4 degrees; it was the only state in the study which did not have an elevated average temperature.
“New England is particularly sensitive to some of the climate changes that could take place” as a result of its varied terrain and proximity to the coast, Keim said.
The area is already seeing the results of global warming. Maple syrup production, once a flourishing industry in Vermont, has largely moved out of the U.S. into the Gaspe Peninsula in Canada, because the maple trees require a very specific temperature to flourish and produce sap suitable for sale. Other effects of the climate change include increased ozone air pollution, which makes it harder to breathe when exercising or working outside, and a more tick-friendly environment, which could mean a higher incidence of Lyme disease.
“We’re perturbing the carbon cycle — due to human activity,” Walker said.
This disturbance not only leads to increased air pollution, but also accelerates global warming. The report emphasized that slowing or stopping this disruption completely through control of greenhouse gases, substances such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and fluorocarbons, is not only important for the preservation of the cooler climate New Englanders enjoy, but that scientists believe that industry could save money while reducing emissions of global warming gases.
The authors of the study compared devoting time and money to preventing further global climate change to buying life insurance in that both are necessary actions to prepare for the future.
“It’s a win-win situation,” Markham said. “People think addressing climate issues requires dramatic costs, but [this] is not the case.”