State stepping up to address climate change predictions
The graphic from the National Climate Assessment shows projected increases in the number of days with temperatures over 90 degrees in the Northeast. (Image source: nca2014.globalchange.gov)
Expect more heat waves, violent floods and nor'easters; a higher incidence of Lyme disease, West Nile virus and waterborne illnesses; damage to crops, fisheries and forests; and greater damage to roads, power lines and bridges from coastal and river flooding.
Its conclusions came as no surprise to leaders in New Hampshire.
"We live very close to the land here, and we live very close to the weather patterns here," he said. "And I think that we have had an understanding and really a sophistication about these issues for longer than perhaps many others . "
Weather patterns change
The NCA calls for states to prepare for the impacts of climate change even as they work to reduce the greenhouse gases driving it.
Nature can only absorb about half of the greenhouse gases currently going into the atmosphere, said Abbott, who was on the 2008 task force. "Mother Earth can only digest 50 percent of what we're putting up.
Planning has begun
The state Department of Transportation recently completed a draft climate change action plan that identifies vulnerable assets and recommends "adaptive strategies." It identifies actions to deal with extreme precipitation events, sea-level rise and coastal storm surges; warming winters and changes in freeze/thaw cycles; and general temperature increases.
The catastrophic 2005 flood in Alstead, caused by a culvert that backed up and then failed, and other flooding events since, have been catalysts for change, he said.
Energy demand in New Hampshire was down, and so was the combustion of fossil fuels. But while the number of vehicle miles traveled was down and land conservation was up, the proposed expansion of public transportation had not materialized.
"Some people want to know everything there is to know about the disease so that they can assure their longest survival. Other people are more fatalistic and say well, what's going to happen is going to happen . And some people will deny they have a disease and attack the doctor for suggesting they're not healthy."
Under the worst-case climate change scenarios, New Hampshire would lose its ski industry, Abbott said. And, he said, "You could see the beaches only if you were scuba diving."
"If that's what's coming, then we'll figure out a way to adapt to it," he said. "But the point is, there are things we can do today that can actually influence how rapidly these changes occur."
"The point is, you've got to start somewhere," he said. "The best place to start is right at home, and in New Hampshire, more people are doing that."
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