More Droughts, Floods Seen From Global Warming
By Julie Vorman
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Popular vacation spots like the alpine meadows of the
Rocky Mountains and barrier islands off Florida may shrink or even disappear
in the coming century because of global warming, U.S. government scientists
and other experts said on Monday.
The panel released a landmark report assessing the impact of a rise of five
to 10 degrees Fahrenheit in temperatures on U.S. agriculture, forestry,
fishing and other sectors by 2100.
U.S. coastal communities and mountain areas will see some of the biggest
changes, while Kansas and other south-central states may have to stop
growing wheat and adopt crops that thrive in hotter temperatures, the report
Throughout the nation, Americans can expect more weather extremes such as
drought and flooding.
``The impacts of climate change will be significant for Americans,'' the
report said. While some specific regions and areas will be hard hit, the
overall economic impact for the nation would be modest, it said.
The authors of the 600-page report said industry and government must find
ways to cope with the coming changes.
``This is not an ideological issue,'' said Tony Janetos, vice president of
the World Resources Institute and a leader of the panel of scientists which
prepared the report. ``It's time to start thinking quite concretely about
what options people have to respond to rising temperatures.''
Global warming has been linked to a build-up of carbon dioxide in the
atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels by automobiles, power plants and
The report, required by a 1990 federal law, will be fine-tuned after a
60-day public comment period and then forwarded to Congress and the White
Critics Call Report Alarmist
The assessment was criticized as alarmist by some conservative groups.
``The report...attempts to make specific predictions about future weather
conditions that are simply not scientifically possible with current
technology,'' said the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative
Some computer models suggest warming will be far less dramatic than the 5 to
10 degree increase assumed in the report, according to the Cato Institute.
During the past century, global temperatures increased by about 1 degree.
``Most of the detected warming so far is occurring at night in the far
northern latitudes,'' said Jerry Taylor, director of natural resources for
the Cato Institute. ``Moreover, about 70 percent of the warming has occurred
in winter. This suggests a benign set of climatic changes.''
Other experts said the assessment was a valuable wake-up call for U.S.
``This is a status report to tell us what we know, how vulnerable we are,
and what we need to find out,'' said Susanne Moser, a climate expert with
the Union of Concerned Scientists who reviewed the report before it was
Some of the biggest impact will be felt in areas popular among vacationers,
according to the report.
For example, barrier islands off Florida are likely to get smaller and
eventually disappear under the rising sea level. Beaches will erode,
wetlands will shrink, and already-fragile coral reefs will be at risk.
Warmer temperatures also mean the alpine flowers of the Rocky Mountains'
pristine meadows may be crowded out by other species moving up the
mountainside in search of cooler temperatures.
Human health may also be affected by hotter weather, although scientists are
not yet able to determine whether diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, birds
and other animals could increase, the report said.
Janetos, a co-chairman of the panel, said the next step would be to analyze
the costs and benefits of various options for adapting to hotter
For example, north Texas farmers may be able to switch from growing wheat to
other crops relatively cheaply, while water managers in mountain areas will
have a more difficult time figuring out how to deal with flooding earlier in
An international effort to slow climate change, the Kyoto agreement, aims to
sharply reduce the amount of fossil fuel emissions by major industrial
nations to 1990 levels by about 2012. The pact has not been ratified by the
The draft report was posted on the Internet at
The 14 scientists who prepared the assessment include climate experts with
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Forest
Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, Harvard University, Carnegie Mellon
University, the World Bank and Glaxo Wellcome Inc.
Food Circles Networking Project
Department of Rural Sociology
University of Missouri-Columbia
Columbia, MO 65211-1100
 882=1473 (fax)
On the web at: http://www.foodcircles.missouri.edu
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