Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Climate Change has Knock-On Impacts that are far-ranging

Scientific studies indicate that extreme weather events such as blizzards, heat waves, and powerful storms are likely to become more frequent or more intense with human-induced climate change, as we observe changes in temperature, precipitation, storms, floods, and droughts.

Climate change may not cause a particular storm, but resulting rising sea levels can worsen storm surge impact. In 2012, a three meter storm surge from Hurricane Sandy hit New York City at high tide, making the water almost 5 meters higher than average at the tip of Manhattan. Flooding destroyed neighborhoods and beaches in outer boroughs. The sea level in this area is rising by more than an inch each decade -- twice as fast as the global average -- and is predicted to rise 11 to 21 inches by 2050. To prepare, the city is implementing coastal resiliency measures: An innovative project will create more green spaces for city residents as well as a system of flood walls, berms, and retractable barriers for boost storm protection.

Over at the NYT, we read:

One-third of oil production in the nation was halted. Drinking-water systems in Ohio were knocked offline. Road networks nationwide were paralyzed and vaccination efforts in 20 states were disrupted.

The crisis carries a profound warning. As climate change brings more frequent and intense storms, floods, heat waves, wildfires and other extreme events, it is placing growing stress on the foundations of the country's economy: Its network of roads and railways, drinking-water systems, power plants, electrical grids, industrial waste sites and even homes. Failures in just one sector can set off a domino effect of breakdowns in hard-to-predict ways....

Sewer systems are overflowing more often as powerful rainstorms exceed their design capacity. Coastal homes and highways are collapsing as intensified runoff erodes cliffs. Coal ash, the toxic residue produced by coal-burning plants, is spilling into rivers as floods overwhelm barriers meant to hold it back. Homes once beyond the reach of wildfires are burning in blazes they were never designed to withstand... The vulnerabilities show up in power lines, natural-gas plants, nuclear reactors and myriad other systems. Higher storm surges can knock out coastal power infrastructure. Deeper droughts can reduce water supplies for hydroelectric dams. Severe heat waves can reduce the efficiency of fossil-fuel generators, transmission lines and even solar panels at precisely the moment that demand soars because everyone cranks up their air-conditioners...

Power outages in extreme weather could render hospitals and transportation systems inert when needed most. Crop declines could lead to hunger and higher food prices. More CO2 in the air could make staple crops like barley and soy less nutritious. Occupational hazards such as risk of heatstroke will rise, especially among those who work outside: farmers and construction workers who keep us fed and our infrastructure up to par will be hardest hit. Labor could shift to dawn and dusk, times when more disease-­carrying insects are out. and sleep deprivation from shift work is a known health hazard. Hotter days, more rain, and higher humidity will produce more ticks, which spread infectious diseases like Lyme disease.

We continue to see extreme weather and climate events increasing, and new and stronger evidence confirms that some of these increases are related to human activities that impact the global climate. There has been a sizable upward trend in the number of storms causing large financial and other losses -- and the knock-on effects are wide and varied.

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