By Brenda Ekwurzel
15 May 2013
(UCS) – November, President Obama suggested that we needed a wide-ranging national discussion about climate change. But where to have that conversation? There are so many stories from communities that are on the front lines of climate change, grappling with ways to cope and looking for options. Here are ten places especially deserving of a visit from the President because they are dealing with consequences of climate change that affect many other parts of the country, indeed the world.
Mauna Loa, Hawaii
On May 9, as my colleague Melanie Fitzpatrick put it, Mauna Loa, Hawaii passed a sobering threshold. Namely the highest atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide measured there — a whopping 400 parts per million. This mountain, loaded with scientific instruments, is like a nose stuck high in the atmosphere that sniffs the carbon dioxide gas that is ever increasing. Carbon dioxide was first measured here a few years before the President was born in Hawaii. The story of how scientists established the longest record of the iconic evidence for a major cause of climate change can be found on Mauna Loa — the longest continuous record of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere has been measured there since 1958.
Elliott Key, Florida
As part of the third-largest coral reef in the world, Elliott Key is particularly vulnerable to rising ocean temperatures and souring of the oceans (becoming more acidic). That’s a major concern for fisheries and tourism.
Coral bleaching events have become more intense and severe over the past 30 years, causing around a third of the world’s corals to suffer death or severe damage.
New York, New York
Rates of sea level rise for New York City region are among the highest in the world exposing this megacity to increased and costly flood risk. If Hurricane Sandy hit over a century ago, it would have occurred during a time when global average sea level was around 8 inches lower. The New York City region, like most coastal regions have many factors affecting local elevation of the land in relation to the sea. Scientists expect such vertical motion to continue, such that a future two-foot (61.0 cm) rise in global sea level is likely to result in a relative sea-level rise at New York City of 2.3 feet (70.1cm).
Rocky Mountains, Colorado
Red trees are a telltale sign of the pest known as the mountain pine beetle that has multiple life cycles per year as warmer winters don’t keep the pest in check as much as before. In just one year, 2009 to 2010, mountain pine beetle activity on the Front Range — mountains at the foot of the Rockies — increased more than 10-fold and infested 200,000 acres (80,000 hectares). The beetle has killed millions of trees setting the stage for a tinderbox if a lightning strike sparks a wildfire during dry and hot times.
Thawing ground that used to be frozen year round is wreaking havoc with infrastructure, including increased costs to maintain the Alaska pipeline. Infrastructure in cold regions was designed to take advantage of places where soil or rock remains at or below freezing for over two years. About 85 percent of Alaska is either discontinuous or nearly continuous permafrost. Winters have warmed on average by 6.3° F (3.5° C) in Alaska over the past 50 years, undermining the foundations of infrastructure anchored in formerly “solid” ground that is now melting. [more]