The Fourth National Climate Assessment, released by the Trump administration last week, was prepared by 300 researchers and reviewed by 13 federal agencies. The 1,000-plus-page report, mandated by the federal Global Change Research Act of 1990 to be updated by the U.S. Global Change Research Program every four years, includes chapters devoted to the effects of climate change on each region of the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, U.S. Pacific islands and U.S. Caribbean islands.
And despite President Donald Trump’s subsequent announcement that, while all that fact-based analysis is nice, he’s just not feeling it in his gut, the rest of us ought to be paying close attention, as there’s much to be gleaned from the report.
It notes some sections of the U.S. economy could lose hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the 21st century because of climate change, and the country’s gross domestic product would decline by 10 percent. As for the potential human toll, the report concludes that continued severe weather, repeat flooding, prolonged drought, and an increase in illness and loss of natural resources can result in people having to relocate. Rising sea levels have the potential to displace 13.1 million people in the United States by 2100.
“We should be very alarmed by it,” Thomas Webler, an assistant professor of environmental studies at Keene State College, said of the report’s findings. “It’s super alarming. We are facing a threat to life as we know it.”
While the presidential gut may disagree, it’s been evident for years where this is heading. There’s no lack of clear, measurable proof our climate is changing, nor that human-based activity such as pollution and development is a major factor.
As for the effects, one doesn’t need to look at the surge of more-intense storms, intensifying wildfires, increasing droughts, warming oceans and coral reef bleaching from Australia to the South Pacific to the Caribbean. Look no further than our own neck of the woods.
Seeing more deer, but fewer moose? That’s due to climate change. See, red-tailed deer used to be rare hereabouts — it was too cold. But now they’re more common, and they carry a parasite called brainworm. That’s something the deer have adapted to deal with, but moose haven’t. It’s transmitted through deer droppings to slugs and snails that moose ingest, and it’s fatal to them.
Of course, that doesn’t account for most of the disappearing moose. What’s really decimating New Hampshire’s moose population is winter ticks. Despite that hardy name, these ticks historically haven’t been able to cope with Granite State winters. But in recent years, as temperatures have softened, they’ve been able to make it through the cold and thrive. And that’s bad for moose, who haven’t learned how to groom themselves to get rid of ticks before they firmly latch on and bleed the animal dry. Individual moose have been found to be covered in more than 100,000 ticks. Some studies indicate 40 percent of New Hampshire’s moose are falling prey to winter ticks.
We’ve written about this dynamic before — several years ago, in fact. But if anything, it’s only getting worse. The climate report notes in New Hampshire and the Northeast, the forecast is for unpredictable seasons, periods of intense rain and flooding, coastal erosion and an increase in insect-borne illnesses.
So, expect more flooding along Beaver Brook, the Ashuelot and other local rivers and streams. Expect to be hit with higher taxes to pay for repairing washed-out roads and bridges. Expect, alternatively, lengthy summer droughts that crush local farms and make food costlier.
And expect some — but too many — people to dismiss such predictions, regardless of how much factual evidence goes into them.
Many local officials seem to get this. Here’s hoping that acknowledgement catches on at high levels in time to make a difference.