2017-08-11 / Opinion

How Life Will Be in 2050

Guest Column
BY BRUCE MACDOUGAL and DODIE JONES

So what is there not to like about climate change? Here in Brunswick, the summers are longer and more balmy. The lobster harvests are as good as they ever have been. The winters are shorter and last winter there was great skiing in the mountains.

Actually climate change is causing even better weather elsewhere in the country. A recent study measuring ‘weather pleasantness' comparing now with 40 years ago found that most of the “so called” red states had a weather improvement many times higher than ours: milder winters and not much change in the summers

But as Bob Dylan’s song from the sixties tells us, “The times they are a’changin.” We have inklings of it now. More floods in the southeast. Heat waves in the far west from Phoenix to Seattle. Persistent droughts from California through Texas. In the western mountains beetles and other pests have destroyed hundreds of square miles of weakened forests.

These trends will continue. The world’s average temperature is rapidly increasing. Except for one, each year has been hotter than the previous one for the past 16 years. Several recent studies predict that by 2050 parts of California, Arizona, Texas and Oklahoma will have over 50 days each year where the temperature is over 100 degrees.

From California through Texas the desert is rapidly moving north. Severe droughts will continue in the southern United States and spread northward into the plains states. The World Bank predicts that available water will become increasingly scarce in the mountain west, southwest and plains states.

Increasing heat puts more moisture and energy in the air so there will be increasing severity of storms. The water will mostly run off as floods rather than adding water to underground reserves. Coastal storms, especially hurricanes, from Texas through North Carolina will increase.

And the changes in the Middle East, south Asia and China are predicted to be much worse than what the United States will experience!

In the Northeast and especially here on the Maine coast the changes are more benign.

Mainers have a wonderful asset that has detailed predictions for Maine’s future: The Climate Change Institute at University of Maine, Orono. One can easily access its great research about our habitat, Maine’s Climate Future. We urge you to browse the reports: http://climatechange. umaine.edu/research/publications/climate-future .

Maine’s climate scientists predict that the average yearly Maine temperature will increase by 3 degrees F (Fahrenheit) by 2050. Most of the increase will be inland as the ocean will continue to moderate Brunswick’s weather. Summers will continue to warm and lengthen by 3 or 4 weeks and we’ll see less than 5 days a year with temperatures over 100 F. Unfortunately we’ll probably get more smog and inversions. Winters will average 6 degrees F warmer and be four weeks shorter.

Our forests will change. Our southern Maine hardwood forests will take over more of northern Maine while the down-east land ‘of the pointed firs’ will move north to Canada. With these changes will come unwanted guests such as more ticks: more deer ticks with Lyme and a host of other diseases, more winter ticks that are killing our moose and a new one, the Lone Star tick, whose saliva causes a permanent allergy in some people to red meat.

The UMO Climate Change Institute predicts there will be a 5 to 10 percent increase in precipitation by 2050. Much will come as severe heavy rain storms so that flooding will increase. At the same time there will be less snow, 20% less inland and 40% less here on the coast. Skiers won’t be happy. On the coast we may not be either since less snow means more sleet and frozen rain.

The Atlantic Ocean off the coast from Florida to Maine is warming faster than most. The Gulf of Maine, a shallow basin that in many ways is similar to an estuary, is warming even faster, faster than 99 percent of the world’s oceans. This warming brings more severe coastal storms, especially nor’easters.

Rapid warming is also causing rapid changes in Maine fisheries. The center of Maine’s lobster harvest has progressively moved north and UMO predicts that the lobster catch will drastically decrease in the near future. A lobster takes 7 years to reach 1 pound. For the last 3 years the number of small lobster lava has dramatically decreased and very few yearlings were found this year. Already new species which used to be fished further south, like tasty black bass, are found in the Gulf of Maine while old favorites like salmon, cod, herring and hake are have trouble finding food.

Maine’s Climate Future concludes:

“Although climate change is not the only challenge we face in Maine, few of our other challenges are not influenced in some way by a changing climate. Climate change also brings new opportunities, but in order to capitalize on these opportunities, we have to be prepared for them. Proactive and coordinated mitigation and adaptation initiatives that incorporate the realities of our present and future environment will ensure that we and future generations continue to believe we live in Maine — The Way Life Should Be!“

Bruce MacDougal lives in Harpswell and teaches a course on climate science and change at Midcoast Senior College. Dodie Jones, lives in Brunswick and is Coleader Citizens’ Climate Lobby- Brunswick Chapter.

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