Climate Change
A light house off the New England coast.

Climate Change has been in the news a lot lately. It’s been all over social media and it’s also one of the main subjects for debates among Democratic front-runners for the primary election. It’s about time that it’s a major issue for discussion. However, many people don’t actually consider the ramifications or know about the consequences of climate change for where they live.

According to the National Climate Assessment, a team of more than 300 climate experts whose goal is to provide an accurate and independent report on climate change:

“Climate change threatens human health and well-being in many ways, including impacts from increased extreme weather events, wildfire, decreased air quality, threats to mental health, and illnesses transmitted by food, water, and disease-carriers such as mosquitoes and ticks. Some of these health impacts are already underway in the United States.”

For future reference: “The difference between weather and climate is a measure of time. Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere “behaves” over relatively long periods of time.” – NASA

As I had mentioned in a previous article about climate change, there is a common misconception about whether or not Earth will survive this change. As the climate continues to worsen and warm up, it will devastate the life as we know it today. There will be profound impacts across a majority of job industries and will ultimately wreak havoc on the economy. The warming of the Earth only means more diseases will spread further North and South (in the Southern Hemisphere) towards the poles and that the animals who require colder climates to survive and cannot adapt, will die out. Eventually, humans would die out too. The Earth would still be here, but a majority of today’s current Animal Kingdom will not survive.

For this article in particular, I’m going to focus on the Northeast and specifically on carbon emissions in New Hampshire. I’m choosing New Hampshire because it’s my home state and so I feel as if it’d be easier for me to use as an example. The effects on New Hampshire will be very similar to the effects of other New England states.

New Hampshire
New Hampshire

New Hampshire is a small state nested towards the North of the New England region in The United States. All of the New England states including New Hampshire experience four seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. New Hampshire has a “humid continental climate” which means the state receives precipitation throughout the whole year.  New Hampshire is a very rural, green state. It’s well known for its famous ski resorts, its giant fresh-water lakes for vacation homes, its large-dense forests, as well as being home to the famous Franconia Notch mountain range within the Appalachian trail. Many people, such as myself, are active and enjoy the vast amounts of natural and beautiful scenery that New Hampshire has in various forms such as hiking, camping, kayaking, snowboarding and more. It’s probably why a large majority of people from New Hampshire participate in or support the preservation of the natural beauty that we have. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of work to do before we know that this happy oasis can be saved. One of the first steps to combatting this is by cutting Carbon emissions in New Hampshire.

According to whitehouse.gov: “In 2012, power plants and major industrial facilities in New Hampshire emitted more than 4 million metric tons of carbon pollution—that’s equal to the yearly pollution from more than 1 million cars.”  This amount of carbon being added to the atmosphere is only adding to the stocks of carbon already there. The key to reversing or stopping the effects of climate change is to cut off the flows from their sources and increase the usage of sinks (such as forests for Carbon sinks) so that stock amount of carbon is reduced.

An easy summary is that the environment isn’t taking enough c02 back out of the atmosphere. We are putting in an excess amount that the environment can’t handle and that is what increases the overall amount of c02 in the atmosphere. Remember, this is a basic explanation.

A scenic view over New Hampshire. Taken by Rahul Nair.
A scenic view over New Hampshire. Taken by Rahul Nair.

The effects of the climate changing can already be seen in New Hampshire. Throughout the last 50 years, the average temperature in New Hampshire has risen by 1.5 degrees. The average winter temperatures are also increasing with this past January having almost twice the average temperature as it usually does. Of course a single month or two is more of an inclination of weather rather than climate, but the pattern is over the last several years.

Climate Change also has a direct influence on the establishment of bug populations such as ticks around the United States. This is because the increase in warmer weather and higher humidity influences vector borne-diseases and bug populations. It’s the same principle as why malaria and other diseases are all in tropical climates–they can’t survive in the cold. The geographic location of where ticks are established is effected by the humidity, precipitation and temperature. Climate Change will increase all three of these categories so it’s expected for tick populations to start traveling and expanding more into New England.

The dangers behind ticks are the vector-borne diseases that they carry. Ticks are known for carrying many diseases but Lyme Disease and Rocky-Mountain Spotted Fever are probably two of the more well-known diseases.

The tick population would look for more habitable climate and New Hampshire would have it. People would be exposed to ticks more often because of a lengthened transmission season due to the earlier onset of higher temperatures in the spring and the later onset of cold and frost in fall/winter. Humans would also start being active outdoors for longer throughout the year as winter would become milder and the onset of actual cold and frost would be delayed. During this same time period, the tick populations would also be much denser than in previous years because of the longer habitable seasons and more exposure to new hosts. With both of these factors combined, there will be a large increase in tick bites and also an increase in humans receiving the diseases that they carry.

Overall, New England would deal with the consequences that the typical person who has knowledge about climate change would expect. The Northeast would be subjected to river flooding from storm surges and coastal flooding from sea-level rise as well as heat waves. The Northeast also has an aging infrastructure and relies heavily on coastal industries for its economy. In summation, many industries such-as energy systems, agriculture, public health, communications, transportation and civil infrastructure will face challenges due to climate change.

All is not lost. The effects of climate change can still be stopped or reversed.

When President Obama took office, his administration had supported tens of thousands of green-energy projects around the nation. The Obama Administration supported 45 separate energy projects in New Hampshire.  As a result, New Hampshire’s renewable energy generation from wind, solar, and geothermal sources has increased by more than 35 percent since 2009. The increase in energy production has produced enough energy to support over 32,000 homes and has brought New Hampshire closer to reaching its own goal of 24.8% of its energy from renewable sources by 2025.

Over time, the increase in renewable energy production would decrease the amount of energy production from natural gas and other unsafe alternatives. This means that the flow of carbon into the atmosphere would decrease.

New Hampshire also aims to protect more of its land, water and wildlife in order to maintain the amount of Carbon fixed and sequestered. As a result of heavy deforestation for agriculture and for timber, the state had lost more than 50% of its forests by the beginning of the 1900s. Thanks to reforestation, New Hampshire is currently 83% forest-land totaling over 163 million tons of wood biomass. The state has a very efficient carbon sink. There are many more ways to combat climate change such as by increasing energy efficiency across all job sectors and by curbing the pollution of our waterways. If you’d like to look at more effects on New Hampshire, then take a look at the state’s climate change action plan.

In summation, the climate in New Hampshire is currently being negatively effected from the increase in stock of carbon in the state. Cars, people, power plants and other industrial buildings have been pouring large sums of carbon into the atmosphere and the increase in carbon is effecting the climate cycle. Over the last century, New Hampshire has had a large reforestation plan and continues to repopulate forests for combatting climate change as part of its climate change action plan, thus increasing the amount of carbon sink that the state has. If enough excess carbon isn’t taken back out of the atmosphere and if humans don’t progressively stop destruction of our climate, then life will literally never be the same on Earth again.

Remember: The best way to decrease the amount of carbon in the atmosphere is to cut off the carbon at its source and to increase the amount of sinks for carbon (forests) in the state in order to decrease the total amount (stock) of carbon.

If you’d like more information on how climate change will affect the Northeast then check this out.

 

 

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