The Pew Center has published a dozen previous reports on the environmental effects of climate change in various sectors across the United States. However, because climate impacts occur locally and can take many different forms in different places, Regional Impacts of Climate Change: Four Case Studies in the United States examines impacts of particular interest to different regions of the country.
Although sections of the report examine different aspects of current and projected impacts, a look across the sections reveals common issues that decision makers and planners are likely to face in learning to cope with climate change:
- In The Heat is On: Climate Change & Heatwaves in the Midwest, Kristie Ebi and Gerald Meehl find that Midwestern cities are very likely to experience more frequent, longer, and hotter heatwaves.
- According to Dominique Bachelet and her coauthors of The Importance of Climate Change for Future Wildfire Scenarios in the Western United States, wildfires are likely to increase in the West, continuing a dramatic trend already in progress.
- In Gulf Coast Wetland Sustainability in a Changing Climate, Robert Twilley explains that Gulf Coast wetlands provide critical ecosystems services to humanity, but sustaining these already fragile ecosystems will be increasingly difficult in the face of climate change.
- In Ramifications of Climate Change for Chespeake Bay Hypoxia, Donald Boesch and his colleagues warn that the Chesapeake Bay may respond to climate change with more frequent and larger low-oxygen “dead zone” events that damage fisheries and diminish tourist appeal.
These authors are leading thinkers and practitioners in their respective fields and provide authoritative views on what must be done to adapt to climate change and diminish the threats to our environmental support systems.
A key theme emerges from these four case studies: pre-existing problems caused by human activities are exacerbated by climate change, itself mostly a human-induced phenomenon. Fortunately, manmade problems are amenable to manmade solutions.
Climate change cannot be stopped entirely, but it can be limited significantly through national and international action to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted to the atmosphere over the next several decades and thereafter, thus limiting climate change impacts. Managing those impacts requires that we adapt other human activities so that crucial resources, such as Gulf Coast wetlands or public emergency systems, continue to function effectively.
The papers in this volume offer insights into how we can adapt to a variety of major impacts that we can expect to face now and in decades to come.
Pew is no longer active in this line of work, but for more information, visit the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions site.