TRENTON, N.J. – Wilting heat, deadly storms, flash floods, coastal erosion, more days with unhealthy air — those are just some of the effects of rising temperatures on the Northeast, a group of scientists reported Wednesday.
They urged governments and citizens to take steps now to avoid the most devastating consequences of global warming.
The Union of Concerned Scientists presented a report detailing the disastrous consequences of climate change on the economy, tourism industry, coastline and agricultural production in nine states.
The scientists said the goal of the assessment is to provide policymakers and business leaders with the best available science on which to base climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies.
"We've got a real problem when it comes to climate change — there is a clear and present danger," New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine said before receiving the 145-page report, entitled "Confronting Climate Change in the U.S. Northeast."
It was compiled by 50 independent scientists from around the country.
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The burning of fossil fuels, such as coal and gasoline, are a leading cause of the heating of the planet, known as global warming.
In New Jersey and other states, the multi-billion-dollar coastal tourism industry will suffer from even a slight rise in sea level that will result from a global rise in temperatures, the scientists said.
Less snowfall and more ice storms will adversely impact New Hampshire, Vermont and other states that draw winter tourists for skiing, snowmobiling and the like.
In New Jersey, two of the state's premier crops, blueberries and cranberries, would be threatened if temperatures rise by as much as 14 degrees Fahrenheit by late century, as scientists predict if fossil fuel consumption continues to rise at current levels.
Some impacts of global warming have already begun because of heat-trapping gases already in the environment. Some impacts are expected to happen whether or not anti-global warming strategies are adopted.
For example, Boston and Atlantic City, N.J., are projected to experience once-a-century flooding every year or two. Coastal flooding and erosion along the eastern seaboard is projected to occur regularly, costing billions.
And, in Maine, Long Island Sound and other coastal regions, the lobster industry will be decimated by warmer sea waters, and cod are expected to disappear from those waters by the end of the century.
The economic impacts of global warming extend to human health. With more days over 100 degrees, and more unhealthy air days, more people will suffer from asthma and other respiratory ailments, and more will require emergency care due to extreme heat, the report says.
The allergy season will last longer, and more people will suffer more serious effects. Because many pests thrive in warmer, dirtier air, farmers may be forced to use more pesticides and herbicides to protect their crops.
The scientists encourage several mitigation and adaptation strategies. They include reducing reliance on fossil fuels, building environmentaly friendly buildings, retrofitting older structures with green materials and technologies, and developing wise transportation and land-use policies.
On a personal level, residents can buy energy-efficient products; drive hybrid cars, take mass transit or use a bicycle; and not waste energy, the scientists suggested.
"We have so much to lose in our state if we don't act," said Environmental Commissioner Lisa Jackson.
The report comes five days after Corzine signed a law ensuring that New Jersey would be a leader in the fight against global warming.
His Global Warming Response Act requires the state to reduce global warming gases to 1990 levels by 2020, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 2006 levels by 2050.
New Jersey became the third state behind California and Hawaii to enact a comprehensive global warming law. But, New Jersey is the first state to set global warming targets so far into the future, and the first to require that energy imports adhere to New Jersey's standards.
Corzine said such action is vital on the state level since the federal government has failed to act on global warming.