In U.S., Climate Change May Hit Southeast Hardest

August 11, 2005

Climate experts say the continuing rise in global temperatures could affect some regions of the United States more than others.

The low-slung, storm-whipped coastal areas from the Carolinas to Texas are most vulnerable. But no region is completely safe.

"There are some regional vulnerabilities no matter what," said Vicki Arroyo of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change in Arlington, Virginia. (Go to next page for regional scenarios.)

The risks all stem from the expected rise in global temperatures caused by growing levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere.

Global temperatures rose about 1° F (0.6° C) in the 20th century and are expected to rise by another 2.5° to 10° F (1.4° to 5.5° C) over the next hundred years, according to the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

Reports and Analysis

Since 1998 the nonprofit has produced dozens of reports on the expected impacts of global warming on the U.S. environment and economy.

A synthesis report,published in April 2004, based on previous studies pinpoints the Southeast U.S. as the most vulnerable to climate change. The report cited the region's heavily populated, low-lying coast, which is susceptible to rising sea levels—a risk that is made worse by more intense, and perhaps more frequent, storms.

In addition, warmer and drier conditions in the South could hamper the region's competitive advantage over the North in agriculture and forestry.

The risk to coastal areas in the Southeast U.S. was echoed by a U.S. government report on the potential consequences of climate change, known as the National Assessment, produced in November 2000.

Elsewhere, wild and high-elevation areas, such as Rocky Mountain wildflower meadows, will also likely suffer from warming, according to Anthony Janetos, who co-chaired the National Assessment team.

"There don't appear to be very many ways for [these ecosystems] to take adaptive measures," said Janetos, who directs the global change program at the Heinz Center in Washington, D.C.

Continued on Next Page >>


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