April 17, 2007 in Nation/World

Report: High climate cost for continent

Juliet Eilperin Washington Post

What it says

The North American section describes what’s happening now and what the authors think will occur as the world heats up. Here are some of the developments it forecasts as “likely” or “very likely”:

•By 2039, average temperatures across North America will rise by 1.8 to 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit. By 2100, the warming will be 3.6 to 5.4 degrees in the West, South and East, but more than 9 degrees in the far north.

•Less rain will fall in the Southwest, but more will fall in the rest of the continent. The chances of extreme precipitation and flooding will increase.

•Shrinking Western mountain snowpacks will melt earlier, causing spring floods and drier summers. The Columbia and Colorado rivers will be especially vulnerable.

•Water levels in the Great Lakes will drop, affecting ship navigation and fishing, and exposing buried pollutants.

•Warmer lake and river water will threaten fish and spread pollution.

•Growing seasons will lengthen for most of the 21st century. Forests will increase by 10 percent to 20 percent. As much as one-third of plant and animal species may be doomed to extinction.

•Sea levels will rise 9 to 18 inches by 2100 along U.S. coasts, higher in Canada and Alaska. Up to 21 percent of coastal wetlands in the mid-Atlantic region will be lost.

•Severe heat waves and more pollution will threaten human health. Severe hay fever, asthma and other lung diseases will mount.


WASHINGTON – Climate change will exact a major cost on North America’s timber industry and could drive as much as 40 percent of its plant and animal species extinct in a matter of decades, according to a new report from an international panel.

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which released its summary report on global warming’s overall impact earlier this month, provided a more detailed assessment Monday of the effects on North America. The report, written and edited by dozens of scientists, looks at how global warming has begun to transform the continent and the likely affect climate change will have in the future.

The 67-page report, which examines everything from freshwater ecosystems to tourism, said North America has suffered severe environmental and economic damage due to extreme weather events including hurricanes, heat waves and forest fires. Without “increased investments in countermeasures,” the authors wrote that they are at least 90 percent sure that “hot temperatures and extreme weather are likely to cause increased adverse health impacts from heat-related mortality, pollution, storm-related fatalities and injuries, and infectious diseases.”

Kristi Ebi, a public health and global warming consultant who worked on a different chapter of the IPCC report, said at a news conference that “human health is already being affected by climate change, and the impacts will only increase.”

North American forests will also suffer from a warming climate, the report states, and increases in wildfires, insect infestations and disease could cost wood and timber producers between $1 billion and $2 billion by the end of the century.

The report also suggests that skiing and snowmobiling will suffer.

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