Byline: Bob Doppelt For The Register-Guard
Greenhouse gas emissions must be cut significantly to avoid the worst of global warming. Two new reports, however, point out that we alsohad better preparerapidly for the harmful effects of rising temperatures.
With little fanfare, under pressure from a federal court order, the White House released in late Maya long-awaited report acknowledging that the Earth is warming, that higher temperatures are already hurting the United States, and that humans are the primary cause.
The document reads like a litany of impending tragedies due to extreme weather, droughts, heat waves, rising sea levels, pathogens and disease.
A week after the White House's forced confessional, the U.S. Climate Change Science Program reported on climate change research efforts at 13 federal agencies.
Written by 38 authors and extensively peer-reviewed, "The Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture, Land Resources, Water Resources and Biodiversity in the United States" reaffirms that climate change alreadyis affecting our environment and that those effects will worsen the warmer it gets.
The report says ominous changes are in store for agriculture. Some crops, such as grains and oilseeds, will mature more rapidly and have longer growing seasons. However, rising temperatures will increase the risk of crop failures, and more drought and greater variability in precipitation will increase those losses. Crops such as tomatoes, onions and fruits likelywill see greater damage, because they are more sensitive to climate change than grains and oilseed crops.
Forests will experience major distress. Some younger forests will grow faster due to elevated carbon dioxide levels. However, expect productivity gains to be offset by increases in the size and frequency of insect outbreaks, tree mortality and forest fires.
The report said mountain snowpack will, on average, continue to decline in the West, and runoff will occur earlier in the spring. Lower summer flows and declining water quality will harm aquatic life. The collapse of this year's salmon runs could be an example of things to come.
It's important to aggressively begin reducing emissions today. The longer we delay, the longer the problem will persist and the worse it will get.
However, because the effects of warming will be with us for decades no matter how fast emissions are reduced, it alsois essential to ramp up efforts to prepare for those consequences.
Preparation starts with a vulnerability assessment: examining an organization or region's exposure to the risks of global warming. …