Monday, October 22, 2018

New National Wildlife Federation Unnatural Disaster Interactive Map On Growing Climate Impacts

The National Wildlife Federation Monday launched a new interactive story map showing where hurricanes, algal outbreaks, wildfires, droughts, and floods have hit in recent years across the United States, detailing how they’ve harmed local economies and wildlife.
Unnatural Disasters: Climate Change and the Mounting Threats to People and Wildlife also explains how scientists now have the tools to attribute certain worsening natural disasters to climate change, which is making them more frequent and damaging than ever before.
In 2017 alone, disasters like Hurricanes Harvey and Maria and wildfires in the West led to more than 3,000 fatalities and caused $306 billion in cumulative costs — a new record.
Although Pennsylvania is not a coastal state, we are still susceptible to the power of hurricanes.  In 2011, Hurricane Irene ravaged parts of Pennsylvania, along with 13 other states, to the tune of $40 billion.
"As the ocean continues to heat up, providing more fuel for devastating hurricanes, we can expect Pennsylvanian's to experience future catastrophic losses from floods and wind damage," said Ed Perry, Pennsylvania Outreach Coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation's Climate Change Campaign. "In addition to the human toll, these torrential downpours tear up the stream banks of our world class trout streams, putting our state fish, the brook trout, in harms way.
"The forecast for brook trout in a warming world is already grim, so any additional stress on these fish will only hasten their demise,” said Perry. (Perry can be contacted by sending email to:
Frequent and sustained smaller stream flooding this past summer across a wide area of Pennsylvania not only caused significant property damage, but landslides in Western parts of the state, repeated property losses and sinkholes in the Northcentral and Eastern areas and a dramatic increase in the mosquito population carrying West Nile Virus.
A Penn State/Florida Gulf Coast University study done for the Center for Rural Pennsylvania in 2017 (and updated this year) found very heavy precipitation events have increased 71 percent over the last 50 years and the frequency is likely to keep increasing.
The 2015 Draft Pennsylvania Climate Impacts Assessment Update done for DEP’s Climate Change Advisory Committee by Penn State’s Environment and Natural Resources Institute found “There are substantial and increasing flooding risks in Pennsylvania for both urban areas and infrastructure in rural areas. Adaptation strategies that focus on increasing flood preparedness, reducing vulnerabilities and increasing resilience in more extreme and more frequent flooding scenarios are of high priority.”
The June 2018 update to Pennsylvania’s Hazard Mitigation Plan submitted by the PA Emergency Management Agency to FEMA for the first time include a more “robust” evaluation of how climate change would affect the risk of flooding and other natural disasters in the state.
The Plan concluded, in part-- “Across the United States, natural and human-made disasters have led to increasing levels of deaths, injuries, property damage, and interruption of business and government services. This trend is projected to increase due to the impacts of climate change, therefore adding data, analysis, and action related to climate change was an important component of this plan update.”
“The threat of climate change-fueled natural disasters cannot be contained to any one region or state — and it’s a problem we all need to urgently address together. The latest science is shouting a warning to all of us: we may only have a decade to prevent irreversible damage to the global climate and the people and wildlife living on Earth. There’s no better time to roll up our sleeves and get to work than right now,” said Shannon Heyck-Williams, senior manager for climate and energy at the National Wildlife Federation. “We urgently need lawmakers and other leaders in the public and private sectors to support cuts in industrial carbon pollution, investments in renewable energy and transit, and expanded adaptation and resilience plans to reduce risks from climate impacts.”
The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a new report this month warning of cataclysmic levels of global warming unless policymakers begin "rapid and far-reaching" transitions in land management, energy, industry, building efficiency, transportation, and smart growth.
Among the disasters fueled by climate change highlighted in Unnatural Disasters:
-- Monster storms and record flooding: In addition to devastating communities, hurricanes can flood the habitats endangered species depend on, placing them at greater risk of extinction. In 2017, Hurricane Irma wiped out as much as 22 percent of Florida’s Key deer (previously estimated to be just 1,000 deer) and Hurricane Harvey decimated the wild population at Texas’ Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge down to just 12 birds.
-- Toxic algae outbreaks: A threat from coast to coast, Florida’s 2018 red tide and blue-green outbreaks sickened dozens of people and killed thousands of fish, and killed or sickened hundreds of birds and endangered sea turtles, along with manatees, dolphins, sea turtles, and a whale shark. In 2007, dead or dying sea otters were found in California, with investigators blaming toxic blue-green algae that washed into marine ecosystems.
-- Extreme heat and drought: It’s not just fish that are hurt by drought – many snow-dependent species, like wolverines, are already being hurt by reduced snowpack. Scientists say late-spring snow will decline by up to 60 percent in the Northern Rockies over the coming century, potentially drying up all wolverine habitat in the Lower 48.
Click Here to visit the  NWF’s Unnatural Disasters story map.  Click Here to read the National Wildlife Federation’s climate change policy recommendations for adaptation and mitigation.
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