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National Report on Global Change Released This Week
Current News for the U.P.
by Michaeleen O'Sullivan, UPfirst feature writer
photos by Rebecca Simmons, UPfirst contributor
Friday, June 6, 2008

Marquette, MI--This week the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, National Science and Technology Council, released a 271-page report on global climate change entitled:  Scientific Assessment of the Effects of Global Change on the United States.

Climate change concerns for Upper Peninsula residents, as described in the national scientific report, include high and low water levels in the Great Lakes, increased frequency of high precipitation events "in most areas" of the country, increases in diseases throughout North America, lack of public preparedness, and challenges in the American health care system. 

Sea level rise is not an issue for the Great Lakes, according to the report, but "damaging and disruptive" high and low water levels are described. 

In the Great Lakes where sea level rise is not a concern, both extremely high and low water levels resulting from changes in the hydrologic cycle have been damaging and disruptive to shoreline communities (Nicholls et al., 2007). High lake water levels increase storm surge flooding, accelerate shoreline erosion, and damage industrial and commercial infrastructure located on the shore. Conversely, low lake water levels can pose problems for navigation, expose intake/discharge pipes for electrical utilities and municipal water treatment plants, and cause unpleasant odors (page 171).

 


Marquette's ancient Black Rocks
along Lake Superior Shoreline

Another concern is the projection by scientists of increases in "heavy precipitation event frequency over most areas," as detailed on page 175:

In addition, the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] projects a very likely increase in heavy precipitation event frequency over most areas. Heavy precipitation events are associated with increased risk of floods as well as infectious, respiratory, and skin diseases (IPCC, 2007b).

The report cites 2008 research showing "that increasing temperatures may result in increased incidence of disease" (page 183).  The report states that "research also suggests that climate variables...may be an important driver for influenza outbreaks" (page 183).  The report warns of increased incidences of water- and food-borne diseases.

Reaction to inhalant allergens is a common concern for U.P. residents, and pollens are "likely to increase," according to the scientific report:

The IPCC concluded that pollens are likely to increase with elevated temperature and atmospheric CO2 concentrations in North America (Field et al., 2007). Moreover, warming and climate extremes are likely to increase pollen and ozone levels, both of which have the potential to exacerbate symptoms in people with respiratory illness (page 186).

The report states that "climate change has caused an earlier onset of the spring pollen season in North America..." (page 186).


U.P. Wildflowers

According to the scientists, the American public will benefit from disaster preparedness education, among other recommendations.

Surveys find that the public is either not aware of the appropriate preventive actions or incorrectly assesses the extent of their personal risk (page 178).

Vulnerability to weather disasters depends on the attributes of the people at risk (including where they live, age, income, education, and disability) and on broader social and environmental factors (level of disaster preparedness, health sector responses, and environmental degradation) (page 182).

Michigan Disaster Preparedness Information, including the "Plan to be Safe" Campaign, the "Family Safety Planning Guide," and much more, is available at:

 http://www.michigan.gov/prepare
 

Continued trouble in the American health care system is suggested in the national report on page 178:

Finally, climate change is very likely to accentuate the disparities already evident in the American health care system. Many of the expected health effects are likely to fall disproportionately on the poor, the elderly, the disabled, and the uninsured. The most important adaptation to ameliorate health effects from climate change is to support and maintain the United States’ public health infrastructure.

In summary, the May report, Scientific Assessment of the Effects of Global Change on the United States, is loaded with detailed information for all Americans about global climate change in an easy-to-read and study PDF format. 


The beautiful Cove at Presque Isle, Marquette

 

According to the May 2008 report, the "Key conclusions...for North America include:"

• Increased deaths, injuries, infectious diseases, and stress-related disorders and other adverse effects associated with social disruption, migration, and loss of place from more frequent extreme weather.

• Increased frequency and severity of heat waves leading to more illness and death, particularly among the young, elderly, frail, poor, and outdoor workers and athletes.

• Expanded ranges of vector- and tick-borne diseases in North America but with modulation by public health measures and other factors. (page 177)

 

The public message (for me) of the National Science and Technology Council report,
Scientific Assessment of the Effects of Global Change on the United States, is this:

Learn, adjust, adapt, prepare.
 

The direct web link to the full report is:

http://www.climatescience.gov/Library/scientific-assessment/Scientific-AssessmentFINAL.pdf
 

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