On the night of his re-election, President Barack Obama described grand ambitions for his second term, including a desire to bequeath to future generations a nation not only free of debt and unencumbered by inequality, but also one "that isn't threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet."
The laws of both physics and politics suggest he'll have his work cut out for him, and his second-term success will surely be measured on far more concrete terms. The president, after all, faces several lingering and highly divisive decisions, including whether and how to clean up the nation's aging fleet of coal-fired power plants, which pump vast amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. He also must decide whether or not to approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project, which would transport heavy, carbon-intensive oil from the scarred landscape of Alberta, Canada, to ports on the American Gulf Coast.
If past is prologue, Obama is unlikely to make anyone fully satisfied.
While many conservatives spent much of the last four years condemning the president as an environmental zealot bent on sacrificing jobs and economic growth to the altar of green, Obama also took substantial heat from his environmental base. A broad collection of conservation groups and climate activists have argued that the president was walking an equivocal line at best, championing emissions reductions, for example, while also embracing expanded oil and gas drilling, including in the delicate Arctic, and continuing his support for so-called clean coal technology, which many environmentalists consider an oxymoron.
To be sure, the Obama administration introduced several inarguably historic emissions-reduction measures over the course of its first term, including tough new fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles and emissions limits on new power plants -- both promulgated through the regulatory authority of the Environmental Protection Agency, rather than by act of Congress.
But even after a year of record-breaking heat, Obama embarks on his second term against the backdrop of a Congress that remains stubbornly divided on questions of climate and conservation, leaving little hope these issues will be addressed through broad-based legislation, which the administration has long said was the preferred route for such measures. That will leave the president with a long list of demands and expectations from his environmental base and only the comparatively narrow corridors of his own regulatory authority through which to pursue any of it -- should he choose to do so.
Last week, leaders of more than three dozen prominent environmental and conservation organizations issued a letter to Obama, calling on him to use the bully pulpit of his presidency to, among other things, place global warming front and center in the national discourse.
Clark Stevens, a White House spokesman, said the administration has climate change squarely in its sights. "The president has made clear that he believes that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human activity and that we must continue to take steps to confront this threat," Stevens said, ticking off the accomplishments of Obama's first term. The administration, he added, "will continue to build on this progress and climate change will be a priority in his second term."
That assertion -- and a number of other environmentally contentious issues -- will be closely watched over the next four years. Among the hot spots:
POWER PLANT EMISSIONS
Back in 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that if the EPA determined that greenhouse gases were a threat to human health, those emissions must be regulated by the agency under the Clean Air Act. Two years later, the EPA under administrator Lisa Jackson determined just that: carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are a public health threat. In the months and years that followed, the agency issued new curbs on emissions from cars and light trucks, as well as from any new power plant.
Those rules outraged the coal-burning industry, which currently has no realistic way to meet the emissions limits. Large-scale carbon capture and control technology is decades from commercialization, despite the roughly $5 billion the Obama administration has invested in developing "clean coal." The upshot: the rule effectively prevents the building of new coal plants.
In the second Obama term, environmental groups want more. They want to see those rules finalized, and more importantly, they want new rules for existing power plants, which account for roughly 40 percent of the country's emissions. Just how aggressive the administration will be is an open question, given that it would almost certainly force existing coal plants to shutter. The uncertainty -- along with rock-bottom prices for natural gas -- is driving many utilities to switch power plants to natural gas, which can fuel the plants within the EPA's rules.
Acknowledging that any emissions rules on existing plants won't go down without a pitched legal fight, David Goldston, the director of government affairs with the Natural Resources Defense Council, called it "low-hanging, but toxic fruit."
"The administration needs to take this first step," Goldston said. "The president has repeatedly said he's interested in attacking the climate problem, and this falls into authority he already has."
KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE
A decision on the contentious pipeline, which would deliver heavy crude oil from Alberta to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast -- and then to the global oil market -- was abruptly delayed by the Obama administration just as the 2012 presidential campaign was about to kick into full gear. "More study needed" was the reason offered by the State Department, which must make the call because the pipeline crosses an international border, though politics certainly played a key role in the decision to delay.
Republicans in Congress respond angrily to the deferral, going so far as to tie agreement on last year's payroll tax cut deal to approval of the pipeline, ultimately to no avail.
But a year has now passed, the president has won a second term, and the decision remains a skunk at his re-election garden party. Opinions differ on the real-world impact of the pipeline, both commercially and in terms of global warming, though it's safe to assume that the project would not deliver a bumper crop of jobs nor lower prices at the pump, as supporters argue. At the same time, not everyone agrees that a completed Keystone XL pipeline would necessarily mean "game over" for the climate, as some opponents of the project have declared -- though a study by a Canadian environmental group on Thursday suggests the climate impacts of Keystone may be worse than previously thought.
But whatever its actual effects, the pipeline remains an extremely powerful totem for stakeholders on both sides. It represents to some, rightly or wrongly, Obama's commitment to American jobs and liberation from the tyranny of Middle East oil, and to others, the president's willingness to mark a clear end to the era of fossil fuels.
"Reject dirty fuels," the coalition of environmental groups declared in its letter to Obama last week. "We should not pursue dirty fuels like tar sands when climate science tells us that 80 percent of existing fossil fuel reserves need to be kept in the ground."
Other climate action advocates see the pipeline as a distraction. "It has emerged as a very symbolic flashpoint," said Elliot Diringer, the executive vice president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions in Washington and a former policy adviser at the White House Council on Environmental Quality under President Bill Clinton. "But I don't know that we should expend our political capital on symbolic victories rather than real progress."
As the State Department continues a new environmental review of the project, eyes will inevitably shift to retiring Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's presumed successor, the Democratic senator from Massachusetts, John Kerry. He will nominally inherit Keystone's federal permit application -- though the ultimate decision will be Obama's.
The administration has already given a nod to TransCanada, the company behind the pipeline, to begin building the lower leg of the project, which runs from Cushing, Okla., to the Gulf Coast, prompting pitched battles between protesters and local police. But the connection to Alberta's oil sands -- an inarguably dirty deposit of thick bitumen that requires copious, emissions-intensive refining and chemical treatment to turn it into useable product -- remains the real test for Obama, a president who has, after all, spent a good deal of effort touting an "all of the above" energy strategy.
Any decision is still likely a good ways off, but it's certain that large swaths of the electorate will be unhappy with whatever decision the president makes.
THE CLIMATE CONVERSATION
The third and final presidential debate last October marked the first time since the 1980s that an entire season of presidential and vice presidential debates went by with nary a mention of climate change. For environmentalists, and many ordinary Americans, it was a troubling milestone, particularly as a gargantuan super-storm -- and one of the sort that virtually all climate scientists have been warning for years would increase in frequency as the planet warmed -- bore down on the East Coast and, in the end, caused unprecedented destruction.
"Hurricane Sandy," wrote Daniel Honan at BigThink.com, "Mother Nature's revenge on the 2012 election?"
Obama was specifically targeted for his silence, which seemed to take hold during his first term around the time that support for broad climate change legislation -- a top-tier campaign goal of candidate Obama in 2008 -- was foundering. Green groups were angered by the president's decision to recede into the background on the climate fight, and to focus on other goals, principally health care and immigration reform.
"I just think it's irresponsible for our leaders to not address one of the biggest challenges facing our generation," Phil Radford, the executive director of Greenpeace USA, said at the conclusion of the debates. "It's one of the biggest security threats we have -- it's a threat to agriculture, it threatens our economy. And to simply not talk about it is one of the biggest failures of our leadership."
The White House characterized those and similar complaints as unfair. But given recent news that 2012 was hotter on average in the United States than any year on record, and the release on Friday of a congressionally-mandated assessment of climate change suggesting that the impacts of global warming are already being felt, Obama can expect demands for his voice on the matter to increase.
"Leadership matters," wrote Dan Lashof, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's climate and clean air program, in a blog post on Monday. "Because the president has to rally public support for the bold steps he must take to address climate change and to make sure those steps aren’t undone by Congress."
Writing in their letter to the president last week, environmental leaders emphasized this point: "Raise your voice," they wrote. "Elevate the issue of climate disruption and climate solutions in the public discourse. Connect the dots between carbon pollution and extreme weather, and lead the public discussion of what we need to do as a nation to both prepare for the changes in climate that are no longer avoidable and avoid changes in climate that are unacceptable."
A host of additional environmental issues will confront the president over the next four years -- even as many of his key energy and environmental lieutenants have either announced their departures or are expected to do so soon. These include Lisa Jackson at EPA, Steven Chu at the Energy Department, and Jane Lubchenco at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
On Wednesday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that he, too, would be stepping down.
Strengthening of the Clean Water Act to protect headwaters and wetlands, meanwhile, is high on many groups' agendas. Activists will also be watching the EPA as it completes a review of hydraulic fracturing -- used by oil and gas companies to exploit deep deposits of hydrocarbons -- and its impacts on water sources. Conservation groups have complained that Obama has so far set aside for protection fewer acres of land than any recent president. They want more. Calls for reforming oversight of toxic chemical production and handling -- a woefully under-regulated industry, according to activists, are also gathering momentum, as are demands that Obama suspend oil and gas exploration in the Arctic.
That last push comes after a string of embarrassing missteps by Shell Oil, which was granted federal permits to plumb exploratory wells off the coast of Alaska this year, only to founder amid rough seas and an apparent inability to maintain control of its drill ships.
An investigation by the Department of Interior is underway, but the tea leaves suggest that the Obama administration will continue to chart its own course on these issues.
“Developing America’s domestic energy sources is essential for reducing our dependence on foreign oil and creating jobs here at home," Salazar said last week, "and the administration is fully committed to exploring for potential energy resources in frontier areas such as the Arctic."
This article is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post that closely examines the most pressing challenges facing President Obama in his second term. To read other posts in the series, click here.
Correction: This story has been updated to correct a misspelling in the surname of David Goldston, director of government affairs with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
This story appears in Issue 33 of our weekly iPad magazine, Huffington, in the iTunes App store, available Friday, Jan. 25.
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Sweet Snorkeling Pics
As humans increase atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, oceans absorb some of the CO2. The resulting drop in ocean pH, known as ocean acidification, has been called <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/09/ocean-acidification-reefs-climate-change_n_1658081.html" target="_hplink">climate change's "equally evil twin"</a> by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Jane Lubchenco. Coral reefs, which are an invaluable part of marine ecosystems and tourism economies, are threatened by ocean warming and acidification. At the 2012 International Coral Reef Symposium in Cairns, Australia, 2,600 scientists signed a petition calling for international action to preserve global coral reefs, <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-18765584" target="_hplink">reported the BBC</a>. Noting that 25 to 30 percent of the world's reefs are already "severely degraded," <a href="http://www.icrs2012.com/Consensus_Statement.htm" target="_hplink">the statement asserts</a> that "climate-related stressors [represent] an unprecedented challenge for the future of coral reefs and to the services they provide to people." A <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/10/coral-triangle-reefs-threatened_n_1662620.html" target="_hplink">recent report from the World Resources Institute</a> found that the Coral Triangle, an important area from central Southeast Asia to the edge of the western Pacific with many reefs, is threatened at a rate far greater than the global average.
Wine Tasting Parties
Winegrowers in France's Champagne region and scientists have already seen changes in the past 25 years, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/17/business/energy-environment/winemakers-rising-to-climate-challenge.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all" target="_hplink">reported <em>The New York Times</em></a> last year. They have "noted major changes in their vineyards, including an increased sugar content in the grapes from which they make their wine, with a consequent decrease in acidity, and a harvest time that regularly comes two weeks earlier than it once did." Last year, the <em>Telegraph</em> reported that Bordeaux, one of the world's most famous wine-producing regions, may be "<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/wine/8354820/Global-warming-threatens-wine-production-in-France.html" target="_hplink">unsuitable for wine-growing by 2050</a>." <a href="http://e360.yale.edu/feature/what_global_warming_may_mean_for_worlds_wine_industry/2478/" target="_hplink">Yale Environment 360 explains</a> that many European wines are tied to a specific geographical area, creating a problem for regions which may soon find themselves most suited to a new kind of grape. In the U.S., <a href="http://www.climatechangeandwine.com/noticia-detalle.php?id=421" target="_hplink">researchers at Stanford University found</a> that climate change could mean "50% less land suitable for cultivating premium wine grapes in high-value areas of Northern California." A 2006 study published in the <em>Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</em> found that "up to 81 percent" of "premium-wine-grape production area" could decline in the U.S. by the end of this century, <a href="http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/04/climate-desk-wine-industry/" target="_hplink">reported Wired</a>. Without any adaptation measures, wine-grape production could disappear from "many areas" of the country. Wired notes, "By the law of supply and demand, that suggests the best wines of tomorrow will cost even more than the ridiculous amounts they fetch today."
Winnie The Pooh's Key Plot Point
<a href="http://usda01.library.cornell.edu/usda/current/Hone/Hone-03-30-2012.pdf" target="_hplink">According to the USDA, bee populations are dropping nationwide</a>. Wetter winters and rainy summers make it harder for bees to get out and about to collect, leaving them to starve or become malnourished and more prone to other diseases. This doesn't just mean a decline in honey. We rely on bees to pollinate crops. When bees disappear, many food crops could also die off.
Spring Break, Wohoo!
As global temperatures rise this century, sea levels are also expected to increase. South Florida may be hit particularly hard. If greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced, global sea levels <a href="http://globalwarming.markey.house.gov/impactzones/florida.html" target="_hplink">could rise over three feet</a> by 2100, with a six foot rise possible. The U.S. Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming notes: <blockquote>This threatens to submerge Florida's coastal communities and economies since roughly 9 percent of the state is within 5 feet of the existing sea level. Rising sea level also threatens the beaches, wetlands, and mangrove forests that surround the state.</blockquote> University of Florida professor Jack Putz said in 2008, "People have a hard time accepting that this is happening here," <a href="http://www.tampabay.com/news/environment/globalwarming/article435224.ece" target="_hplink">reported the <em>Tampa Bay Times</em></a>. Seeing dead palm trees and other impacts "brings a global problem right into our own back yard," he added. <a href="http://geology.com/sea-level-rise/florida.shtml" target="_hplink">Click here</a> to see a map showing what different levels of sea level rise would look like for Florida and other states.
Cute Baby Polar Bear Videos
A November 2011 study found that polar bear litters are getting smaller as climate change causes sea ice decline. <a href="http://www.worldwildlife.org/who/media/press/2011/WWFPresitem19837.html" target="_hplink">According to World Wildlife Fund</a>, the study "found that if spring sea ice break-up occurs one month earlier than usual, 40-73 percent of pregnant females could fail to bring cubs to term." The National Snow and Ice Data Center found that in 2010, <a href="http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=49132&src=share" target="_hplink">Arctic sea ice</a> was at its lowest January level in 30 years. With decreased sea ice, polar bears may have greater trouble finding food sources. This could lead to cannibalism, which has already been observed by photographers. Environmental photojournalist Jenny Ross <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-16081214" target="_hplink">told BBC News</a> in 2011, "There are increasing numbers of observations of it occurring, particularly on land where polar bears are trapped ashore, completely food-deprived for extended periods of time due to the loss of sea ice as a result of climate change."
Thanks to a failing peanut crop due to last summer's scorching hot weather, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/10/peanut-butter-price-jump_n_1003732.html" target="_hplink">there was a shortage of peanuts in supply</a> at the end of 2011. If temperatures continue to rise, a jump in peanut butter prices is just the prelude to what could be in store for the beloved spread.
<a href="http://www.ciat.cgiar.org/Newsroom/Documents/ghana_ivory_coast_climate_change_and_cocoa.pdf" target="_hplink">A report released by the International Center For Tropical Agriculture </a>warns chocolate could become a luxury item if farmers don't adapt to rising temperatures in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, where a majority of the world's cocoa is grown. The October 2011 report, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, "calls for increased research into heat and drought resistant crops, and to help transition cocoa farming to new regions that will be suitable for production in the future," <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2011/09/30/332951/chocolate-climate-change-cocoa-industry-study/" target="_hplink">reported ThinkProgress</a>.
'Friday Night Lights' & 'Varsity Blues'
As average temperatures rise over the course of this century, states in the Southern U.S. are expected to see a greater number of days with temperatures over 90 degrees Fahrenheit each year. Hotter temperatures will mean that football players in the South will face a greater risk of hyperthermia, <a href="http://txchnologist.com/post/41213194156/heres-a-reason-to-care-about-climate-change-it-could" target="_hplink">explains GE's TXCHNOLOGIST blog</a>. <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/02/05/419061/will-global-warming-ruin-football-in-the-south/" target="_hplink">ThinkProgress suggests</a>, "Indeed, it is the conservative southern U.S., especially the South central and South east, who have led the way in blocking serious climate action, as it were, making yesterday's worst-case scenario into today's likely outcome."
Bad news for allergy sufferers -- climate change, and specifically warmer temperatures, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/31/seasonal-allergies-rising_n_913650.html" target="_hplink">may bring more pollen and ragweed</a>, according to a <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21259264" target="_hplink">2011 study</a> from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. Along with allergies, a changing climate may be tied to more infectious diseases. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/17/flu-pandemic-climate-pattern-la-nina_n_1211480.html" target="_hplink">According to one study</a>, climate change could affect wild bird migratory patterns, increasing the chances for human flu pandemics. Illnesses like <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/04/global-warming-lyme-disease-west-nile_n_1400692.html" target="_hplink">Lyme disease could also become more prominent</a>.
Famed for producing some of the world's best beer, <a href="http://www.nature.com/news/2008/080502/full/news.2008.799.html" target="_hplink">Germany could suffer from a drop in production due to climate change-induced water shortages</a>. Barley and hops can only be grown with water, and using cheaper alternatives like corn isn't possible in Germany because of <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reinheitsgebot" target="_hplink">strict regulations</a> about what you can make beer with. Research published earlier this year in the journal <a href="http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v2/n7/full/nclimate1491.html" target="_hplink"><em>Nature Climate Change</em></a> found that "unless farmers develop more heat-tolerant corn varieties or gradually move corn production from the United States into Canada, frequent heat waves will cause sharp price spikes," <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/23/business/climate-change-effect-seen-for-corn-prices.html" target="_hplink">reported <em>The New York Times</em></a>. Price spikes for U.S. corn could affect prices of <a href="http://beeradvocate.com/beer/style/38/" target="_hplink">American macrobrews</a> made with an <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adjuncts" target="_hplink">adjunct ingredient like corn</a>.
Valentine's Day Cliches
With higher temperatures expected in northern latitudes in coming decades, the U.K. has begun a program to develop strawberries that will survive in higher temperatures with less water. Since chocolate also may be threatened, could sexy chocolate-covered strawberries, a Valentine's Day staple, be endangered? <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/8603607/Climate-change-resistant-strawberries.html" target="_hplink">According to <em>The Telegraph</em></a>, Dr. David Simpson, a scientist with England's East Malling Research, said last year, "Consumer demand for fresh strawberries in the UK has been growing year on year since the early 1990s. The British growers have done a great job of increasing their productivity to satisfy this demand between April and October. The future will be challenging due to the impacts of climate change and the withdrawal of many pesticides but the breeding programme at EMR is using the latest scientific approaches to develop a range of varieties that will meet the needs of our growers for the future."
Coffee lovers may want to get that caffeine fix before the treasured drink becomes a rare export. Starbucks raised the issue last year when the company's director of sustainability told <em>The Guardian</em> that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/16/starbucks-climate-change_n_1011222.html" target="_hplink">climate change is threatening the supply chain</a> for the Arabica coffee bean. Starbucks Sustainability Director <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/oct/13/starbucks-coffee-climate-change-threat?newsfeed=true" target="_hplink">Jim Hanna told the paper</a>, "What we are really seeing as a company as we look 10, 20, 30 years down the road - if conditions continue as they are - is a potentially significant risk to our supply chain, which is the Arabica coffee bean."
Water Out West
According to a 2011 U.S. Interior Department report, "annual flows in three prominent river basins - the Colorado, Rio Grande and San Joaquin - could decline by as much [as] 8 percent to 14 percent over the next four decades," <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/26/western-us-water-supplies-climate-change_n_853882.html" target="_hplink">reported the Associated Press</a>. Expected changes in temperature and precipitation are likely to alter river flows "with increased flooding possible in the winter due to early snowmelt and water shortages in the summer due to reductions in spring and summer runoffs." Mike Connor, commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, said, "Impacts to water are on the leading edge of global climate change." Earlier this year, the Bureau of Reclamation <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/11/us-reviews-ideas-for-boos_n_1418724.html" target="_hplink">asked the public to suggest ideas</a> for meeting future water demand around the Colorado River basin.
Rudolph (And Donner And Blitzen)
Reindeer, also known as "caribou" in North America, could face a difficult future in a warmer climate. <a href="http://www.usnews.com/news/energy/slideshows/10-animals-threatened-by-global-warming" target="_hplink">According to U.S. News & World Report</a>, "Russell Graham, associate professor of geosciences and director of the Earth and Mineral Sciences Museum at Penn State University, says global warming will most harm the animals adapted to the coldest environments, primarily those accustomed to life in the Arctic." A 2008 study found that caribou in West Greenland are "now arriving after peak foraging time, fewer calves are being born and more calves are dying," <a href="http://www.sciencenews.org/view/feature/id/341435/title/Animals_on_the_Move" target="_hplink">reported ScienceNews</a>.
Yummy Pancake Breakfasts
It may be a bit harder to drown your pancakes in maple syrup in the future, <a href="http://greenliving.nationalgeographic.com/effects-global-warming-maple-syrup-production-20078.html" target="_hplink">studies suggest</a>. According to <a href="http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/Nov10/SyrupClimate.html" target="_hplink">a 2010 Cornell University study</a>, "maple syrup production in the Northeast is expected to slightly decline by 2100, and the window for tapping trees will move earlier by about a month." Additionally, most maple syrup production south of Pennsylvania "will likely be lost by 2100 due to lack of freezing." <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2012/01/no-maple-syrup-2100" target="_hplink">Click here to watch one farmer's fight to save New Hampshire's sugar maples.</a>
According to a <a href="http://www.nrdc.org/globalwarming/ntrout.asp" target="_hplink">2002 study by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Defenders of Wildlife</a>, a warming planet does not bode well for species that thrive in cold streams. The study found that "global warming is likely to spur the disappearance of trout and salmon from as much as 18 to 38 percent of their current habitat by the year 2090." A 2011 study published in the <em>Proceedings of the National Academies of Science</em> produced "models [which] forecast significant declines in trout habitat across the interior western United States in the 21st century," <a href="http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/16/trout-fishing-in-a-climate-changed-america/" target="_hplink">reported <em>The New York Times</em></a>. The study claims, "The decline will have significant socioeconomic consequences as recreational trout fisheries are valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars in the United States alone."
NYC's Waterfront Real Estate
According to a 2012 report from New Jersey-based nonprofit <a href="http://sealevel.climatecentral.org/" target="_hplink">Climate Central</a>, thousands of New York City residents may be at risk for severe <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/15/rising-sea-levels-threate_n_1347333.html" target="_hplink">coastal flooding as a result of climate change</a>. <a href="http://slr.s3.amazonaws.com/factsheets/New_York.pdf" target="_hplink">Climate Central explains</a>, "the NY metro area hosts the nation's highest-density populations vulnerable to sea level rise." They argue, "the funnel shape of New York Harbor has the potential to magnify storm surges already supplemented by sea level rise, threatening widespread areas of New York City."
The Best Part Of July 4th
With droughts and wildfires hitting many parts of the U.S., municipalities from <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/03/colorado-wildfires-2012-f_n_1647571.html" target="_hplink">Colorado</a> to <a href="http://www.nashvillescene.com/pitw/archives/2012/07/03/climate-change-is-totally-ruining-your-4th-of-july" target="_hplink">Tennessee</a> canceled July 4th public fireworks displays or banned personal fireworks this year, citing the fire hazards they posed. In June, a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/12/climate-change-wildfires_n_1588741.html" target="_hplink">study published in the journal <em>Ecosphere</em></a> found that almost all of North America will see more wildfires by 2100, reported Reuters. The study's lead author, Max Moritz, said, "In the long run, we found what most fear - increasing fire activity across large areas of the planet."
The Non-.com Amazon
Along with <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/06/brazil-amazon-rainforest-deforestation-levels_n_1130554.html" target="_hplink">deforestation</a>, climate change also poses a serious threat to South America's Amazon rainforest. A 2009 study from the U.K. Met Office found that a global temperature rise of four degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels would cause 85 percent of the Amazon to die off in the next 100 years. Even a two degree Celsius rise would kill 20 to 40 percent of the rainforest, <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/mar/11/amazon-global-warming-trees" target="_hplink">reported the <em>Guardian</em></a>. In May, The Club of Rome think tank predicted a global average temperatures rise of "2 degrees Celsius by 2052 and a 2.8 degree rise by 2080," <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/08/club-of-rome-climate-change_n_1499183.html" target="_hplink">reported Reuters</a>. Jorgen Randers, author of the club's report, said, "It is unlikely that governments will pass necessary regulation to force the markets to allocate more money into climate-friendly solutions, and (we) must not assume that markets will work for the benefit of humankind." He added, "We are emitting twice as much greenhouse gases every year as are absorbed by the world's forests and oceans. This overshoot will worsen and will peak in 2030."
As global sea levels rise during the 21st century, low-lying island nations like the Maldives could see their very existence threatened. With a three to six foot sea level rise predicted by 2100, nations like the Maldives could become uninhabitable, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/cwire/2011/05/25/25climatewire-island-nations-may-keep-some-sovereignty-if-63590.html" target="_hplink">explained <em>The New York Times</em></a>. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/06/mohamed-nasheed-maldives-climate-change-united-states_n_1652409.html" target="_hplink">Maldives' former president, Mohamed Nasheed</a>, has been a tireless campaigner for the urgent need for countries to take action against climate change, arguing "You can't pick and choose on science."
Although seasonal fluctuations occur and El Nino/La Nina weather patterns affect snowfall, global temperature rise may impact conditions for skiers and boarders. "The long-term trend is less snow and earlier snowmelt. This means more frustration for snow sport enthusiasts and a negative impact on the snow sports industry," <a href="http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/tspencer/skiing_snow_blog_2312.html" target="_hplink">writes the Natural Resources Defense Council's Theo Spencer</a>. In May, a snow-less ski race was held in Aspen, Colorado to "highlight the effect climate change has on the outdoor recreation industry," <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/06/aspen-ski-area-climate-change_n_1489390.html" target="_hplink">reported the Associated Press</a>.
Thanksgiving Dinner Food Comas
A 2010 paper in the journal <em>Food Research International</em> found that climate change may one day affect the cost and quality of traditional Thanksgiving dishes, <a href="http://news.discovery.com/earth/thanksgiving-climate-change.html" target="_hplink">reported Discovery News</a>. Future temperature rises could impact the quality of turkey meat. Additionally, foods like "pumpkins, sweet potatoes, potatoes, grains [and] green beans ... will be sensitive to water shortages should they arise," study author Neville Gregory told Discovery News. In fact, common Thanksgiving foods were <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/21/thanksgiving-dinner-battles-weather_n_1099899.html" target="_hplink">impacted by weather events in 2011</a>, with shortages and price spikes hitting over the holidays.
The Views On Your Alaska Vacation
Earlier this year, researchers from the U.S. Forest Service confirmed that climate warming is killing southeast Alaska's mighty yellow cedars. The study, published in the journal <em>Bioscience</em>, found that with decreasing snow cover, the trees' shallow roots are more vulnerable to freezing, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/18/climate-change-yellow-cedar_n_1286387.html" target="_hplink">reported AP</a>. Paul Schaberg, a U.S. Forest Service plant pathologist, said, "As time goes on and climates change even more, other species, other locations, are likely to experience similar kinds of progressions, so you might do well to understand this one so you can address those future things."
"Lady & The Tramp"-Like Scenes
Scientists at the British Met Office warn that Italy may soon be forced to<a href="http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/climate-threat-to-italys-pasta/story-e6frg6so-1225797946930" target="_hplink"> import the basic ingredients to make pasta because climate change will make it impossible to grow durum wheat domestically</a>. The crop could almost disappear from the country later this century, scientists say.
Home Sweet Home (For Kiribatians)
Along with the Maldives and other island nations, Kiribati is also threatened by climate change. Earlier this year, the president's cabinet endorsed a plan to spend about $9.6 million for 6,000 acres on Fiji's main island, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/09/kiribati-global-warming-fiji_n_1334228.html" target="_hplink">reported AP</a>. President Anote Tong told AP, "We would hope not to put everyone on one piece of land, but if it became absolutely necessary, yes, we could do it." He added, "It wouldn't be for me, personally, but would apply more to a younger generation. For them, moving won't be a matter of choice. It's basically going to be a matter of survival."
Super Duper Fast Wi-Fi Connection
A 2011 report from the U.K.'s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs found that climate change could affect certain infrastructure, like wireless internet. <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/may/09/climate-change-wi-fi-connections" target="_hplink">The <em>Guardian</em> reports</a>, "higher temperatures can reduce the range of wireless communications, rainstorms can impact the reliability of the signal, and drier summers and wetter winters may cause greater subsidence, damaging masts and underground cables," according to secretary of state for the environment. The <em>Guardian</em> notes, "The government acknowledges that the impact of climate change on telecommunications is not well understood, but the report raises a series of potential risks."
The Great Smoky Mountains' Smoke
The Great Smoky Mountains have the most annual rainfall in the southeastern U.S., which mostly falls as a light, misty rain, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/28/great-smoky-mountains-climate-change_n_1461482.html" target="_hplink">explains OurAmazingPlanet</a>. A study by a team from NASA's Precipitation Measurement Missions found that "light rainfall is the dominant form of precipitation in the region, accounting for 50 to 60 percent of a year's total, governing the regional water cycle." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/28/great-smoky-mountains-climate-change_n_1461482.html" target="_hplink">OurAmazingPlanet</a> notes: <blockquote>The results suggest the area may be more susceptible to climate change than thought; as temperatures rise, more of the fine droplets from light rain will evaporate in the air and fail to reach the ground. Lower elevations will have to contend with not only higher temperatures, but less cloud cover.</blockquote>
California Beach Bums
Along the California coast, beach communities are finding that it may be impossible to stop coastal erosion as global sea levels rise. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/02/beach-communities-moving-inward_n_1565122.html" target="_hplink">According to AP</a>, David Revell, a senior coastal scientist at <a href="http://www.pwa-ltd.com/" target="_hplink">ESA PWA</a>, acknowledged the relentless power of the sea, saying, "I like to think of it as getting out of the way gracefully." A <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/22/west-coast-sea-level-rise_n_1619568.html" target="_hplink">report released in June by the Natural Resources Defense Council</a> found that West Coast ocean levels will rise several inches in the next few decades. Sea levels along the California coast are expected to be six inches higher by 2030 and three feet higher by the end of the century. Despite the risks, another recent NRDC study found that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/08/california-climate-change-study_n_1409312.html" target="_hplink">California is one of several states</a> with the best plans to deal with the effects of climate change.
Repeats Of The Titanic
2012 could be a record year for the extent of Arctic sea ice at its yearly summer minimum. Walt Meier, a research scientist at the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center, said that with recent satellite observations, "It definitely portends a low-ice year, whether it means it will go below 2007 (the record minimum in September), it is too early to tell," <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/18/arctic-sea-ice-levels_n_1605441.html" target="_hplink">reported LiveScience</a>. As sea ice declines in the Arctic, countries are anticipating a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/16/arctic-climate-change-military-activity_n_1427565.html" target="_hplink">competition for control of shipping lanes and mineral extraction</a> in the region. In Antarctica, research from the United States' Palmer Station on the Antarctic Peninsula has found that "87 percent of the peninsula's land-bound glaciers are in retreat," <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/12/environmental-threats-antarctica_n_1669023.html" target="_hplink">reported OurAmazingPlanet</a>. Decreasing sea ice levels were also addressed in <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/18/shell-arctic-ready-hoax-greenpeace_n_1684222.html" target="_hplink">a recent spoof of Shell's plans to drill for oil in the Arctic this summer</a>.
Crazy Sugar Highs
Climate change has already impacted sugarcane production in Indonesia. In late 2011, the <a href="http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2011/11/09/sugar-association-blames-climate-change-production-drop.html http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2011/11/09/sugar-association-blames-climate-change-production-drop.html" target="_hplink">chairman of the Indonesian Sugarcane Farmers Association said</a>, "sugarcane production decreased by up to 30 percent in 2011 due to climate change that has occurred since 2009."
Warning Joe: Coffee Extinct in The Future?
Climate changes and insect invasions threaten the future supply of morning joe.
Samiksha Sen ϟ
ISF Humboldt n.CA