Future climate change-related impacts in the region may be assessed according to different GHG emission scenarios. For example, if we were to continue on our current path of high emissions – "business as usual" (BAU) – the region would be dramatically altered, with temperatures expected to increase 6 to 14°F by the end of the 21st century. With that amount of warming, heat waves and extreme precipitation events would become frequent, evaporation rates would rise, soil moisture would be reduced, winters would shorten, and regional snow cover would decline. Projections estimate that by mid-century, coastal waters could rise approximately three inches in the Boston area and more than one foot in Virginia – eight inches and three feet, respectively, by 2100 – thus intensifying vulnerabilities to coastal flooding and damage from storm surges.
Higher temperatures and changes in the water cycle are anticipated to result in a proliferation of weeds and pests, which could impact agricultural yields and dairy production, and could require greater use of herbicides and pesticides. Human health impacts are also associated with heat stress, poor air quality, and an increase in infectious diseases. Under the BAU scenario, annual weather-related mortalities in New York City, calculated at 500 in 1993, would likely rise to 1,400 by 2050. Changes in precipitation patterns could lead to an increase in the number of animal species listed as threatened or endangered, due to invasive species, floods and droughts, and habitat loss. Furthermore, the stress brought by climate change is likely to impact forest composition and the geographic range and distribution of certain tree species. Changes in weather patterns are projected to impact the size and quality of New York's water supply and cause an increase in the number of heavy-precipitation events. Moderate to substantial sea level rise is expected to impact the coastal areas of the Northeast.
Some of these consequences are unavoidable, but under a low GHG emissions scenario they would be significantly reduced. A low-emissions scenario is one in which action is taken to significantly reduce GHG emissions from sources such as vehicles and electricity-producing power plants.
Changes in precipitation patterns could lead to an increase
in floods.Source: Natural Resources Conservation Service
1 Kalkstein, LS, and JS Greene. 1997. An Evaluation of Climate/Mortality Relationships in Large U.S. Cities and the Possible Impacts of Climate Change. Environmental Health Perspectives 105 (1):84-93. Cited in "Climate Change in New York State; Developing a Research Strategy," NYAS & NYSERDA, 2007.