This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Climate Change is Happening--It's Not Just a Future Scenario

The New York Times lead story this morning was a wake-up call about climate change. It's already happening in the US and our goal is not just to try to stop it, but in the meantime we have to adjust to it. That comes from a just-released report from a very large government-sponsored National Climate Assessment Committee tasked to figure out how climate change might affect the US.
The effects of human-induced climate change are being felt in every corner of the United States, scientists reported Tuesday, with water growing scarcer in dry regions, torrential rains increasing in wet regions, heat waves becoming more common and more severe, wildfires growing worse, and forests dying under assault from heat-loving insects.
Such sweeping changes have been caused by an average warming of less than 2 degrees Fahrenheit over most land areas of the country in the past century, the scientists found. If greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane continue to escalate at a rapid pace, they said, the warming could conceivably exceed 10 degrees by the end of this century.
“Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present,” the scientists declared in a major new report assessing the situation in the United States.
The most negative side is the increased volatility of the weather--more rain, higher heat--that is not easy to adjust to. There are some short-term benefits--a longer growing season in the midwest, and a longer shipping season on the Great Lakes. But, in the long term, volatile weather is likely to diminish the value of those benefits. 
Historically, the United States was responsible for more emissions than any other country. Lately, China has become the largest emitter over all, though its emissions per person are still far below those of the United States.
The report pointed out that while the country as a whole still had no comprehensive climate legislation, many states and cities had begun to take steps to limit emissions and to adapt to climatic changes that can no longer be avoided. But the report found that these efforts were inadequate.
I suspect that those who choose not to believe that this is really happening will not be swayed by this report, but the rest of us need to work together to lower our carbon footprint on the planet. 

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