Effects of Global Warming


Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it. Now the joke is on us, we have changed the weather. The scientific consensus is that the Earth's surface is getting warmer. The discussion has now shifted from whether global warming is real, to what will be the consequences. There will likely be an increase in some kinds of extreme weather events: a day over 90 degrees in Seattle is quite rare, but it will probably happen more often in the future.

As the human population of the world doubles in the next fifty years, as more people move onto coastlines and floodplains, human communities will be more susceptible to storms and floods. Global warming is expected to cause changes in the distribution of wild plants and animals on a continent-wide scale, indeed such changes are already being reported. Climate has changed rapidly in the past, but the natural world is now so dominated and fragmented by humans that in many places its ability to adapt to climate change is compromised.

A recent report to the President and Congress describes our present understanding of what to expect from global warming. We spoke with David Easterling, one of many contributors to the report as well as a coauthor of a summary in Science, about his work on climate change.

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