Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Washington Post: One hot topic

The Washington Post

First Published May 07 2014 08:51 am • Last Updated May 07 2014 04:43 pm

Among the injustices of human-caused climate change is that nations most responsible for filling the atmosphere with heat-trapping carbon dioxide will not face the brunt of the consequences. A belt of vulnerable, poor countries around the equator will probably be hit hardest, even though many did not enjoy the economic benefits of burning fossil fuels for energy. The first reason to fight global warming is to head off a global mess the United States is helping to create.

But the United States, the largest historical emitter, has selfish reasons for concern, too. The National Climate Assessment, a comprehensive federal report released Tuesday, makes clear that global warming is changing a variety of conditions here — changes that will become more severe as the average global temperature rises.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

It is not possible to attribute particular instances of extreme weather to human influence. But the trends are scary. The country has warmed, and will continue to heat up, by between 3 and 10 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, depending in part on how much the world does to slash emissions. The country is seeing more hot weather, more torrential rain and higher sea levels. The Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions have been hit with heat waves, severe rain and coastal flooding. Areas around the District of Columbia are seeing rapid sea-level rise. Other regions, such as the Southwest, are dealing with pressing water scarcity.

Not every effect is negative. Farmers in the Midwest benefit from longer growing seasons, and their crops gobble up added CO2. But those effects, the assessment warns, can be offset by weather-related crop failures, not to mention climate-related costs outside the agricultural sector. The country has a lot of threatened infrastructure: Seaports, airports, roads and rails are at increased risk of flooding. The nation will probably need more electricity to reduce the impact of hotter days. Climate change could also encourage the spread of various diseases.

The bottom line is that every region of the country must both do its part to reduce carbon emissions and plan to adapt to the effects it is unlikely to avoid.

The best way to cut greenhouse gases would be through a national policy that puts a price on carbon dioxide emissions. Experts are all but unanimous on this point, but Congress has yet to respond. Local governments can enforce stronger building codes and various other measures,.

All levels of government, meanwhile, must plan for coming changes. Last week the journal Science published an analysis on the cost-effectiveness of various ideas to harden New York City against flooding. A group of experts found that retrofitting existing buildings to better withstand floods and storms would help in all sorts of future conditions. In middle-of-the-road warming scenarios, they also figured, it would make economic sense to enhance waterside flood barriers around major infrastructure. This is the sort of analysis that communities large and small should be conducting now.




Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.