2010 – The Hottest Year Ever
Scientists at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies reported recently that the average global temperature was higher over the past 12 months than during any other 12-month period in history. March, April, May and June set records, making 2010 the warmest year worldwide since record-keeping began in 1880.
Bringing it Home
Faster melting means more immediate sea level rise, causing floods that threaten to affect billions of people worldwide. This includes the U.S., where more than 50% of the people live near our coastlines. Also, a weakened Arctic blast moving south to collide with moist air from the Gulf of Mexico can mean less rain and snow in some areas, including the drought-stricken southeast.
The Union of Concerned Scientists projects that by the end of the 21st century Illinois temperatures will rise 7–13 degrees F in winter and 9-18 degrees F in summer. This dramatic warming is roughly the same as that which has occurred since the last ice age!
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, if current pollution trends continue, toward the end of the century Illinois will experience:
Far More Scorching Summers:
- Every summer in Illinois would be hotter than 1983—the hottest summer during the historical baseline.
- Chicago would experience more than 70 days per summer with highs over 90 degrees Fahrenheit (°F) and a month of days with highs over 100°F.
- Chicago would face at least two heat waves per summer like the one that killed hundreds in Chicago in 1995, and one heat wave every other summer like the even deadlier European heat wave of 2003.
- Air quality would deteriorate, as hotter weather causes more severe smog problems (assuming similar levels of tailpipe and smokestack emissions). This would have serious consequences for public health, including a greater incidence of asthma attacks and other respiratory conditions.
- Heavy rains would become more common throughout the year, leading to a greater incidence of flash flooding.
- Winters and springs, when the flood risk is already high, would become more than 25% wetter.
New Threats to Agriculture:
- Crops and livestock would face substantially more heat stress, decreasing crop yields and livestock productivity.
- Warmer winters and a growing season up to six weeks longer would enable pests like the corn earworm to expand their range.
- Crop production would be inhibited by changing rain patterns such as wetter springs (which delay planting and increase flood risk) and almost 15% less rain during the increasingly hot summers.
Source: Union of Concerned Scientists
There Are Solutions!
And the Union of Concerned Scientists says there is still time to avoid the most catastrophic consequence of climate change. Illinois is the sixth largest producer of global warming emissions in the U.S. That’s the bad news. The good news is that there is lots of room for improvement!
For example, the generation of electricity and transportation account for 85% of the state’s emissions. And, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, Illinois generates about 30% more electricity than it uses, exporting the excess to other states.
So what can be done? Here in Illinois we can:
- Increase energy efficiency and conservation in industries and homes.
- Boost the use of renewable energy resources such as wind, solar and geothermal energy from it’s current 1% of the energy mix.
- Improve vehicle fuel efficiency, but more importantly, reduce the number of miles driven.
- Reduce heat trapping emissions from current soil tilling and fertilizer application agricultural practices.
These actions not only would lessen greenhouse gas emissions, but also reduce energy costs, create jobs, and enhance air and water quality. The “business as usual scenario” described by the Union of Concerned Scientists in their report Confronting Climate Change in the U.S. Midwest doesn’t have to take place if each of us does our part. That means:
- Changing our personal actions and behaviors to consume less and lower our carbon footprints as we lower our demand for energy.
- Working for policy change at the local, state and federal levels – but especially at the local level, where we have the most control.
Click here to read about the changes the Clean Power Coalition is driving in Chicago, here for information on Transition Towns and here for new legislation that increases energy efficiency and renewable energy in Illinois.