Global Warming Effects Being Felt Around the World
North America is already feeling the affects of warmer temperatures in a variety of ways.
In New England, maple syrup production is declining because of warmer than usual winters. Farmers who used to begin tapping their trees in the beginning of March now must begin tapping in February. Last year some began tapping in mid-February and still missed much of the sap.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that temperatures have risen by 2.8 degrees in the Northeast since 1971. Tim Perkins, director of the Proctor Maple Research Center, calls the situation "dire." His data shows that over the last 40 years the maple sugaring season has moved steadily earlier and become steadily shorter.
In Northern Canada, warming temperatures are threatening the boreal forests, the "lungs of the world." Increasing drought and insect infestation are taking their toll. As the trees dry, forest fires increase, sending more carbon into the atmosphere. The number of forest fires doubled in the 1980s and 90s from the previous decade and are expected to double again this century.
Nearly half of the carbon that exists on land is contained in the boreal forests that stretch across the northern latitudes of North America, Europe and Asia. Steven Kallick, an expert on the boreal forests comments that; "We are taking risks with a system we don't understand that is absolutely loaded with carbon. The impact could be enormous."
In the U.S. Southwest, rapidly growing population and a seven year drought is stressing water supplies. The situation is only expected to get worse as temperatures warm. One study predicted as much as a 20 percent decline in water supply, greater than water saving measures could compensate for.
The Colorado River basin has seen faster temperature growth than other parts of the U.S. and are now 1.5 degrees warmer than in the 1950s. While local officials have taken measures to develop more local sources of water, climate change will inevitably collide with population growth.
Finally, a study on children's health has shown that warmer temperatures increase the number of sick children. A two year study at a major children's hospital showed that for every five degree rise in temperature, two more children under six were admitted with fever. The study showed that children are less able to regulated their bodies against climate change than adults, increasing their risk of fever and gastric diseases.
While the more profound effects of global warming may be decades or centuries away, climate change is already making itself felt in many ways around the globe.