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As global warming alters ecology, economy will change, report says

ALBANY -- Warmer winters and longer lake-effect snow seasons.
Summers hotter by nine degrees. Lower levels of water in the Great Lakes.

The demise of New York's MacIntosh and Empire apples.
Poor conditions for brook trout and salmon; better conditions for bass.
Climate change will radically transform New York State by 2080 in ways unimaginable today, affecting everything from the kinds of birds flying overhead to the crops farmers will be able to grow, according to a report released Wednesday.

More than 50 scientists worked three years to complete the study, which is intended to send a wake-up call to residents, urban planners, water resource managers and businesses with a simple message: New York must begin now to adapt to a warming climate over the coming decades.

"We have to realize that a lot of the things we do today, the crops we grow, how water systems are designed, are based on climate data 50 years old," said Arthur DeGaetano, one of the study's principal investigators. "But with climate change, we have to start incrementally rethinking how they might change."

DeGaetano is a researcher from Cornell University. The report was released by Clim-AID, a group of researchers from a variety of disciplines from Cornell, Columbia University, the City University of New York and other institutions. "The state has the potential capacity to address many climate-related risks, thereby reducing negative impacts and taking advantage of possible opportunities,"

The 600-page study provides insight into how communities across the Empire State will be hit by climate change over the next 70 years. The $1.5 million study was funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, a state agency.

An authority spokesman said the three-year study cost $1.5 million, which was matched by the universities in staff time and other resources.

The study comes as global warming remains a controversial issue for some Americans, though polls tend to find that most Americans believe the climate is changing. Some conservatives say the global warming issue is fueled by environmentalists seeking to achieve political changes that will end up hurting business interests.

"Science is not only not settled on this issue, but science has been proven wrong on many of these studies over the years," said Michael Long, the state Conservative Party chairman. "Sometimes, you can't look that far into the future."

The ClimAID study's snapshots of various regions provides sobering predictions -- from lower Great Lakes water levels to less snow in winter tourist regions and even the loss of MacIntosh apple crops. It also found a few bright spots, such as new opportunities for Western New York grape growers to plant more wine grapes that now can't cope with cold climates.

But for the bright spots, there often was a price. Warmer winters will mean shorter periods of ice cover on lakes Erie and Ontario, which will extend shipping seasons. The price: longer lake-effect snow seasons.
Climate change already is affecting the state, as witnessed by historic floods in areas not prone before to such tragedies, the report said.
"Climate change-related economic impacts will be experienced in all sectors, types of communities and regions across the state," the report said.

The report's scientists offered many ways for the state to adapt to the changing climate: planting more low-pollen trees in cities to reduce summer temperatures, buying out or offering land swaps to homes and businesses in major wetland or flood zone areas, the making of a major energy conservation effort by the state, and improving coordination to reduce invasive plant species to preserve wetlands and existing animal species.

But the report also made clear there will be no way to ignore the impact of climate change on our lives. Take the fishing industry. Cold water fish, such as brook trout and Atlantic salmon, will have a harder time surviving in New York waters. At the same time, more bass stocks could appear.

Climate changes will especially hurt smaller upstate communities that rely on the $3.5 billion fishing and hunting seasons to keep their economies going. Climate change will prove an expensive problem for the state, the report said.

By the middle of the century, annual costs associated with climate change, such as more flooding from more flash storms or hurricanes, will top $10 billion annually in the state.

Climate change also will bring hotter weather. The study predicted average annual temperatures being 4 degrees to 9 degrees higher by 2080, with upstate feeling the heat the most, according to the report.
The elderly and low-income residents and those in rural areas will be especially hit by such changes as they struggle with costs of air conditioning to keep cool.

Precipitation levels will be up 5 percent to 15 percent -- much of it as additional rain in the winter. The projections, the study said, do not factor in "significant" polar ice sheet melting. However, the study noted that "sharp cuts" in global emissions could reduce those predictions.
Farmers also will be hit hard by the changing conditions.
Predictions of more winter rain may be accompanied by periods of drought in other seasons, forcing farmers to turn to costly irrigation systems.

Farmers also will face new pest populations. Dairy farms will see milk production fall unless farmers can adapt through such means as installing more efficient cooling systems in barns. Farms, which now cover one-fourth of the state, will have to undergo dramatic transformations, even changing the types of crops that are planted.

The report talked of more opportunities to grow valuable European wine grapes, such as those grown in California. But the state's apple farmers will have to adapt by growing more heat-tolerant varieties, likely causing the disappearance in New York of MacIntosh and Empire apples.
Transportation and water resource systems will face the most significant impact from climate change unless there are major infrastructure changes. Hydropower plants will have less water during summer and utilities across the state will be especially strained during the hottest periods to provide reliable power.

Coastal areas will face permanent inundation of wetlands. Saltwater levels -- which can now stretch to the Poughkeepsie area during some high tides -- will go farther north up the Hudson River. The state's forests won't be able to escape the effects of weather change, either.

The report predicted "widespread shifts" in various plant, tree and animal species in forests. It said the spruce-fir forests in the Adirondacks and Catskills will be threatened, as will alpine tundra and boreal plant communities. Climate change will encourage invasive species, such as the kudzu, to flourish unless officials undertake a more comprehensive reporting and extraction system.

Health effects will range from more asthma cases to higher levels of stress and mental health concerns for people living near flood zones.
To mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change, government and private businesses will face major expenditures.

The report said, for example, longer airport runways will be needed to help pilots cope with less lift to get their planes aloft during hot periods.
It said low-lying water treatment facilities and high-density housing in areas that could be susceptible to flooding should be relocated to higher grounds. That could require zoning changes to deal with future construction plans for such communities.

It also called for more levees, sea walls and pumping stations to help communities cope with flooding. As the timing and durations of the seasons change, tourism will have to adapt. Less snow in many areas will hurt ski operations and snowmobile areas. But longer summers could promote other tourism.

The report stressed how various sectors can start to consider specific ways to adapt to the coming changes. "Adaptations can take place at the individual, household, community, organization and institutional level," the report said. It could mean everything from better community planning to more energy conservation by homeowners.

But it acknowledged some solutions could lead to other problems. Building sea walls, for instance could further erode wetlands. Increasing air conditioning for people and farm animals will further stress the state's already strained power grid.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, one of the contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, is among those who disagrees with the climate change researchers, going so far as to call global warming claims "contrived" by scientists."I also believe industry and commerce must do everything they can to take the right steps to avoid polluting our atmosphere, but one thing we don't need is the strong arm and heavy hand of government making it impossible for industry to exist in this state," Long added.

Climate change already is being felt in the form of warmer winters in New York over the last several decades and increasing numbers of extreme rainfall events, according to DeGaetano, the Cornell researcher, who is the director of the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell.
"The report says what we can start to do about it now," DeGaetano said.

The study offers a blueprint for how communities can adjust things like zoning and planning considerations when, for example, deciding whether to build new housing complexes near a flood zone or replacing aging sewer treatment facilities that are often located along rivers, the researcher said. He cautioned that not all the adaptive costs are prohibitive, nor do they all have to be met immediately.
"In most cases, what doesn't have to happen is an overall paradigm shift. It's in our planning, our policymaking, our regulations.


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Dmitri Chavkerov on Saturday, January 04, 2014 4:29 AM
Nice post!! Yes,I agree that climatic conditions affect economy.Like agriculture depends on climatic changes and crops affected by this that directly affects economy of the country.
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