With more than 25 million metric tons of greenhouse gases dumped into the atmosphere every day, the facts about global warming are undeniable.
The carbon dioxide and other gases released from burning fossil fuels increase the amount of heat retained in the atmosphere. Scientists have shown that even a slight increase in the average temperature can raise the sea level, change precipitation, alter forests, decrease crop yields and have a profound effect on human health.
Scientists predict that continued global warming on the order of 2.5 to 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit over the next 100 years (as projected in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Third Assessment Report) is likely to result in:
- A rise in sea level between 3.5 and 34.6 inches, leading to more coastal erosion, flooding during storms and permanent loss of coastline to the sea.
- Severe stress on many forests, wetlands, alpine regions and other natural ecosystems.
- Greater threats to human health as mosquitoes and other disease-carrying insects or rodents spread diseases over larger geographical regions.
- Disruption of agriculture in some parts of the world due to increased temperature, water stress (more or less rain) and sea-level rise in low-lying areas such as Cape Cod and the Islands.
To Cape residents and all New Englanders, the effects of global warming will not be abstract. A recent study conducted by the University of New Hampshire provides some alarming information on how global warming in New England—estimated to be between 6-10° F projected over the next century—will affect the region.
- Regional air quality will worsen—higher temperatures increase the formation of smog and sulfate haze, and water vapor combines with other pollutants to produce acid rain.
- Risk to human health will significantly increase not only from higher levels of smog and allergens, but because warmer weather can facilitate the expansion of Lyme disease-carrying ticks, West Nile virus-carrying mosquitoes and other disease vectors into the region.
- New England’s natural environment will be altered as the forests, already under stress from pollution, are further damaged as non-native plants take over our woodlands. Potential droughts and flooding will also have profound impacts on regional water availability and quality.
- Coastal regions will be changed forever when warmer coastal waters put some marine life in peril and sea-level changes dramatically alter coastal landscapes. Based on climate studies, the sea level is predicted to rise by as much as three feet—putting all of the Cape and especially the beaches and dunes at risk. Warmer water temperatures may cause species shifts and toxic algal blooms.
Although 6° doesn’t seem like very much—as today’s temperature can easily vary by much more than that from yesterday’s temperature—it is significant when you compare the average temperature. Boston’s 30-year average temperature is 51.3°; if the average temperature increases “just” 6°, it would be like that of Richmond, VA (57.7°), while a 10° increase would make our weather closer to that of Atlanta, GA (61.3°).
Unlike fossil fuel generated electricity, wind power produces no greenhouse gases. The electricity from the Cape Wind project will keep more than a million tons of greenhouse gases from being spewed into the air. In addition because wind power does not use cooling water, it does not introduce thermal pollution to rivers or the ocean as do most steam-powered electric generators.Protecting Our Environment :: About Global Warming