As temperatures break records across the U.S. and around the world, a new analysis by the National Wildlife Federation suggests that this summer’s heat waves may provide a window on what the future will look like as a result of global warming. The Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) released the report
Unless action is taken to reduce carbon pollution and move toward cleaner energy sources, future summers will bring hotter summer days for every part of the country. The first half of 2010 was the hottest on record, with large cities in the eastern U.S. experiencing about twice as many days with temperatures exceeding 90°F than they typically would by the end of July. Washington D.C. is on track to have about 50 days of 90°F or hotter weather this summer. By midcentury, an average summer in D.C. could have 55 to 100 such days.
“Heat waves in the future could threaten the health of Maine people, both from the immediate risks of extreme temperatures and also from the air pollution that accompanies hot weather,” said NRCM Advocacy Director Pete Didisheim. “The increase in extremely hot days across the country means increased use of air conditioning, increased combustion of coal and oil to generate electricity, and more air pollution carried to Maine on the prevailing winds.”
More than 70 million Americans experienced extreme heat during the past two months, as hundreds of daily temperature records were broken across the country. “2010 is a sample of what’s to come. Global warming is bringing more frequent and severe heat waves, which will seriously impact vulnerable populations,” said Dr. Amanda Staudt, climate scientist, National Wildlife Federation. According to the report, global warming could cause much of the southern U.S. to experience three or four months each year with temperatures in the 90s or above.
“If the world doesn’t move rapidly to reduce carbon pollution from the combustion of fossil fuels, then the warming of the Earth will continue and we will see huge impacts on our economy, environment, public health, and quality of life,” said Didisheim. “This summer’s heat waves from Manhattan to Moscow could become the new normal, and we may witness events like this week’s massive iceberg breaking off from Greenland on a regular basis.” Some scientists believe that a vast ice sheet
The NWF analysis is an update to its 2009 heat waves report
In 2010, New Jersey, Delaware, and North Carolina all experienced the hottest June on record, while Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana had their second hottest June. Eight other states had Junes that ranked in the top-five hottest. The hot conditions continued with July 2010 being among the top five hottest on record for ten states, including Maine.
Air pollution brings increased risk of heart attacks, strokes and asthma attacks. Children, the elderly, and people with respiratory difficulties are especially vulnerable to these effects. “Because Maine has one of the highest childhood asthma rates in the nation and also a large population of senior citizens, global warming will rob many Maine people of their ability to function normally during periods of extreme summer heat,” added Didisheim.
“Global warming is one of the most massive health emergencies facing humanity. Its effects are already life-threatening for people with asthma and allergies and it’s only going to get worse if fail to take action,” said Mike Tringale, vice president of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
Top U.S. government experts have confirmed that the earth is warming. NASA scientists recently stated that the average global temperature was higher over the past 12 months than during any other 12-month period in recorded history. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has documented that the last decade was the hottest in 130 years of record-keeping
To explain the bigger picture and provide recommendations for how to cope with projected changes and how to avoid the worst impacts of global warming, NWF’s 2009 report More Extreme Heat Waves: Global Warming’s Wake-Up Call
• Global warming will bring more extreme heat waves
• Urban air pollution could be exacerbated by more extreme heat
• Natural habitats and agriculture are also vulnerable to heat waves
Natural Resources Council of Maine is Maine’s leading environmental advocacy organization.
Pete Didisheim, NRCM advocacy director, 207-430-0113, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tony Iallonardo, NWF senior communications manager, 202-797-6612, email@example.com