The phrase ‘climate change’ is an umbrella term for a number of substantial changes that are impacting our world. Here, we illustrate the ways that the planet is adjusting (as a result of human behavior).
The good news:
With Fall upon us, it’s a fitting time to celebrate our nation’s trees. Last year, Climate Central used the U.S. Forest Service i-Tree tool to quantify trees’ carbon storage, storm runoff avoided, and air pollution absorbed. As climate change leads to heavier downpours, floods like this year’s in Texas are happening more frequently. For three consecutive months this spring, the U.S. set a new record for its wettest 12-month period. Most cities are seeing their wettest days get even wetter, particularly in the Northeast and Midwest. And as the oceans heat up, stronger and wetter hurricanes are more likely, such as Imelda and Harvey, which each flooded Houston with more than three feet of rain.
Enter: trees. By absorbing rainwater, reducing erosion, and creating more permeable soils, trees save nearly 400 billion gallons of stormwater runoff in the continental U.S. each year. That is enough to cover the state of Rhode Island in more than a foot of water. And reducing runoff isn’t the only way that trees limit climate impacts. The process of photosynthesis removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, helping forests offset 10 to 20 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions each year. U.S. trees also remove more than 35 billion pounds of air pollutants every year, preventing more than half a million annual cases of acute respiratory symptoms. And in urban areas, trees’ cooling effect reduces U.S. energy bills by more than $5 billion each year. All the more reason to root for trees in our warming world.
Click here to read about the power of trees in Nashville, visit.
The bad news:
Sea levels rising is one of the best known of climate change’s many dangers. As humanity pollutes the atmosphere with greenhouse gases, the planet warms. And as it does so, ice sheets and glaciers melt and warming seawater expands, increasing the volume of the world’s oceans. The consequences range from near-term increases in coastal flooding that can damage infrastructure and crops, to the permanent displacement of coastal communities.
Over the twenty-first century, global sea levels are projected to rise between about two and seven feet, at a minimum. The key variables will be how much warming pollution humanity adds to the atmosphere, and how quickly the land-based ice sheets in Greenland and especially Antarctica destabilize. Projecting where and when that rise could translate into increased flooding and permanent inundation is profoundly important for coastal planning and for reckoning the costs of humanity’s emissions. To see where in the USA is most at risk, within the next 30 years (and beyond) explore this interactive map.