Posted: July 24, 2012
The continental U.S. has just experienced the hottest 12 month period in recorded history. The West is on fire. The Maldives are going underwater and California can expect a sea level rise of six inches in less than 20 years.
An increasing number of studies are making the connections between human activities, climate change and a rise in extreme weather events. While it is difficult to point to climate change as causing a single weather event without in-depth research, patterns are emerging.
Scientists warn that climate change will bring an increase in heat waves, droughts, floods and worsening storms. Not a rosy forecast for our future, let alone our children's future.
From chocolate to our favorite island getaways, a variety of studies suggest that many of the things and places that we most enjoy may be gone if we stay on this path. Below is a list of some of the things that may be changed or ruined for future generations based on suggested effects of climate change. There is an element of speculation in this list, as predictions are difficult to determine.
What do you think will be ruined for your kids due to climate change? Tweet us what #climatechangeruins for future generations, and we may include it in our slideshow below!
What Climate Change Just Might Ruin
Yummy Pancake Breakfasts
It may be a bit harder to drown your pancakes in maple syrup in the future, studies suggest.
According to a 2010 Cornell University study, "maple syrup production in the Northeast is expected to slightly decline by 2100, and the window for tapping trees will move earlier by about a month." Additionally, most maple syrup production south of Pennsylvania "will likely be lost by 2100 due to lack of freezing."
Rudolph (And Donner And Blitzen)
Reindeer, also known as "caribou" in North America, could face a difficult future in a warmer climate. According to U.S. News & World Report, "Russell Graham, associate professor of geosciences and director of the Earth and Mineral Sciences Museum at Penn State University, says global warming will most harm the animals adapted to the coldest environments, primarily those accustomed to life in the Arctic."
A 2008 study found that caribou in West Greenland are "now arriving after peak foraging time, fewer calves are being born and more calves are dying," reported ScienceNews.
Spring Break, Wohoo!
As global temperatures rise this century, sea levels are also expected to increase. South Florida may be hit particularly hard.
If greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced, global sea levels could rise over three feet by 2100, with a six foot rise possible. The U.S. Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming notes:
This threatens to submerge Florida's coastal communities and economies since roughly 9 percent of the state is within 5 feet of the existing sea level. Rising sea level also threatens the beaches, wetlands, and mangrove forests that surround the state.
University of Florida professor Jack Putz said in 2008, "People have a hard time accepting that this is happening here," reported the Tampa Bay Times. Seeing dead palm trees and other impacts "brings a global problem right into our own back yard," he added.
Click here to see a map showing what different levels of sea level rise would look like for Florida and other states.
Coffee lovers may want to get that caffeine fix before the treasured drink becomes a rare export. Starbucks raised the issue last year when the company's director of sustainability told The Guardian that climate change is threatening the supply chain for the Arabica coffee bean.
Starbucks Sustainability Director Jim Hanna told the paper, "What we are really seeing as a company as we look 10, 20, 30 years down the road - if conditions continue as they are - is a potentially significant risk to our supply chain, which is the Arabica coffee bean."
Cute Baby Polar Bear Videos
A November 2011 study found that polar bear litters are getting smaller as climate change causes sea ice decline. According to World Wildlife Fund, the study "found that if spring sea ice break-up occurs one month earlier than usual, 40-73 percent of pregnant females could fail to bring cubs to term."
The National Snow and Ice Data Center found that in 2010, Arctic sea ice was at its lowest January level in 30 years.
With decreased sea ice, polar bears may have greater trouble finding food sources. This could lead to cannibalism, which has already been observed by photographers. Environmental photojournalist Jenny Ross told BBC News in 2011, "There are increasing numbers of observations of it occurring, particularly on land where polar bears are trapped ashore, completely food-deprived for extended periods of time due to the loss of sea ice as a result of climate change."
'Friday Night Lights' & 'Varsity Blues'
As average temperatures rise over the course of this century, states in the Southern U.S. are expected to see a greater number of days with temperatures over 90 degrees Fahrenheit each year. Hotter temperatures will mean that football players in the South will face a greater risk of hyperthermia, explains GE's TXCHNOLOGIST blog.
ThinkProgress suggests, "Indeed, it is the conservative southern U.S., especially the South central and South east, who have led the way in blocking serious climate action, as it were, making yesterday's worst-case scenario into today's likely outcome."
Wine Tasting Parties
Winegrowers in France's Champagne region and scientists have already seen changes in the past 25 years, reported The New York Times last year. They have "noted major changes in their vineyards, including an increased sugar content in the grapes from which they make their wine, with a consequent decrease in acidity, and a harvest time that regularly comes two weeks earlier than it once did."
Last year, the Telegraph reported that Bordeaux, one of the world's most famous wine-producing regions, may be "unsuitable for wine-growing by 2050."
Yale Environment 360 explains that many European wines are tied to a specific geographical area, creating a problem for regions which may soon find themselves most suited to a new kind of grape.
In the U.S., researchers at Stanford University found that climate change could mean "50% less land suitable for cultivating premium wine grapes in high-value areas of Northern California."
A 2006 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that "up to 81 percent" of "premium-wine-grape production area" could decline in the U.S. by the end of this century, reported Wired. Without any adaptation measures, wine-grape production could
Wired notes, "By the law of supply and demand, that suggests the best wines of tomorrow will cost even more than the ridiculous amounts they fetch today."
Bad news for allergy sufferers -- climate change, and specifically warmer temperatures, may bring more pollen and ragweed, according to a 2011 study from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.
Along with allergies, a changing climate may be tied to more infectious diseases. According to one study, climate change could affect wild bird migratory patterns, increasing the chances for human flu pandemics. Illnesses like Lyme disease could also become more prominent.
The Best Part Of July 4th
With droughts and wildfires hitting many parts of the U.S., municipalities from Colorado to Tennessee canceled July 4th public fireworks displays or banned personal fireworks this year, citing the fire hazards they posed.
In June, a study published in the journal Ecosphere found that almost all of North America will see more wildfires by 2100, reported Reuters. The study's lead author, Max Moritz, said, "In the long run, we found what most fear - increasing fire activity across large areas of the planet."
Valentine's Day Cliches
With higher temperatures expected in northern latitudes in coming decades, the U.K. has begun a program to develop strawberries that will survive in higher temperatures with less water. Since chocolate also may be threatened, could sexy chocolate-covered strawberries, a Valentine's Day staple, be endangered?
According to the Telegraph, Dr. David Simpson, a scientist with England's East Malling Research, said last year, "Consumer demand for fresh strawberries in the UK has been growing year on year since the early 1990s. The British growers have done a great job of increasing their productivity to satisfy this demand between April and October. The future will be challenging due to the impacts of climate change and the withdrawal of many pesticides but the breeding programme at EMR is using the latest scientific approaches to develop a range of varieties that will meet the needs of our growers for the future."
Sweet Snorkeling Pics
As humans increase atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, oceans absorb some of the CO2. The resulting drop in ocean pH, known as ocean acidification, has been called climate change's "equally evil twin" by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Jane Lubchenco.
Coral reefs, which are an invaluable part of marine ecosystems and tourism economies, are threatened by ocean warming and acidification.
At the 2012 International Coral Reef Symposium in Cairns, Australia, 2,600 scientists signed a petition calling for international action to preserve global coral reefs, reported the BBC. Noting that 25 to 30 percent of the world's reefs are already "severely degraded," the statement asserts that "climate-related stressors [represent] an unprecedented challenge for the future of coral reefs and to the services they provide to people."
A recent report from the World Resources Institute found that the Coral Triangle, an important area from central Southeast Asia to the edge of the western Pacific with many reefs, is threatened at a rate far greater than the global average.
Thanks to a failing peanut crop due to last summer's scorching hot weather, there was a shortage of peanuts in supply at the end of 2011. If temperatures continue to rise, a jump in peanut butter prices is just the prelude to what could be in store for the beloved spread.
According to a 2002 study by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Defenders of Wildlife, a warming planet does not bode well for species that thrive in cold streams. The study found that "global warming is likely to spur the disappearance of trout and salmon from as much as 18 to 38 percent of their current habitat by the year 2090."
A 2011 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science produced "models [which] forecast significant declines in trout habitat across the interior western United States in the 21st century," reported The New York Times.
The study claims, "The decline will have significant socioeconomic consequences as recreational trout fisheries are valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars in the United States alone."
A report released by the International Center For Tropical Agriculture warns chocolate could become a luxury item if farmers don't adapt to rising temperatures in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, where a majority of the world's cocoa is grown.
The October 2011 report, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, "calls for increased research into heat and drought resistant crops, and to help transition cocoa farming to new regions that will be suitable for production in the future," reported ThinkProgress.
NYC's Waterfront Real Estate
According to a 2012 report from New Jersey-based nonprofit Climate Central, thousands of New York City residents may be at risk for severe coastal flooding as a result of climate change.
Climate Central explains, "the NY metro area hosts the nation's highest-density populations vulnerable to sea level rise." They argue, "the funnel shape of New York Harbor has the potential to magnify storm surges already supplemented by sea level rise, threatening widespread areas of New York City."
Winnie The Poo's Key Plot Point
According to the USDA, bee populations are dropping nationwide. Wetter winters and rainy summers make it harder for bees to get out and about to collect, leaving them to starve or become malnourished and more prone to other diseases. This doesn't just mean a decline in honey. We rely on bees to pollinate crops. When bees disappear, many food crops could also die off.
The Non-.com Amazon
Along with deforestation, climate change also poses a serious threat to South America's Amazon rainforest.
A 2009 study from the U.K. Met Office found that a global temperature rise of four degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels would cause 85 percent of the Amazon to die off in the next 100 years. Even a two degree Celsius rise would kill 20 to 40 percent of the rainforest, reported the Guardian.
In May, The Club of Rome think tank predicted a global average temperatures rise of "2 degrees Celsius by 2052 and a 2.8 degree rise by 2080," reported Reuters. Jorgen Randers, author of the club's report, said, "It is unlikely that governments will pass necessary regulation to force the markets to allocate more money into climate-friendly solutions, and (we) must not assume that markets will work for the benefit of humankind."
He added, "We are emitting twice as much greenhouse gases every year as are absorbed by the world's forests and oceans. This overshoot will worsen and will peak in 2030."
Famed for producing some of the world's best beer, Germany could suffer from a drop in production due to climate change-induced water shortages. Barley and hops can only be grown with water, and using cheaper alternatives like corn isn't possible in Germany because of strict regulations about what you can make beer with.
Research published earlier this year in the journal Nature Climate Change found that "unless farmers develop more heat-tolerant corn varieties or gradually move corn production from the United States into Canada, frequent heat waves will cause sharp price spikes," reported The New York Times. Price spikes for U.S. corn could affect prices of American macrobrews made with an adjunct ingredient like corn.
As global sea levels rise during the 21st century, low-lying island nations like the Maldives could see their very existence threatened. With a three to six foot sea level rise predicted by 2100, nations like the Maldives could become uninhabitable, explained The New York Times.
Maldives' former president, Mohamed Nasheed, has been a tireless campaigner for the urgent need for countries to take action against climate change, arguing "You can't pick and choose on science."
Although seasonal fluctuations occur and El Nino/La Nina weather patterns affect snowfall, global temperature rise may impact conditions for skiers and boarders.
"The long-term trend is less snow and earlier snowmelt. This means more frustration for snow sport enthusiasts and a negative impact on the snow sports industry," writes the Natural Resources Defense Council's Theo Spencer.
In May, a snow-less ski race was held in Aspen, Colorado to "highlight the effect climate change has on the outdoor recreation industry," reported the Associated Press.
Thanksgiving Dinner Food Comas
A 2010 paper in the journal Food Research International found that climate change may one day affect the cost and quality of traditional Thanksgiving dishes, reported Discovery News.
Future temperature rises could impact the quality of turkey meat. Additionally, foods like "pumpkins, sweet potatoes, potatoes, grains [and] green beans ... will be sensitive to water shortages should they arise," study author Neville Gregory told Discovery News.
In fact, common Thanksgiving foods were impacted by weather events in 2011, with shortages and price spikes hitting over the holidays.
Water Out West
According to a 2011 U.S. Interior Department report, "annual flows in three prominent river basins - the Colorado, Rio Grande and San Joaquin - could decline by as much [as] 8 percent to 14 percent over the next four decades," reported the Associated Press. Expected changes in temperature and precipitation are likely to alter river flows "with increased flooding possible in the winter due to early snowmelt and water shortages in the summer due to reductions in spring and summer runoffs."
Mike Connor, commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, said, "Impacts to water are on the leading edge of global climate change."
Earlier this year, the Bureau of Reclamation asked the public to suggest ideas for meeting future water demand around the Colorado River basin.
The Views On Your Alaska Vacation
Earlier this year, researchers from the U.S. Forest Service confirmed that climate warming is killing southeast Alaska's mighty yellow cedars. The study, published in the journal Bioscience, found that with decreasing snow cover, the trees' shallow roots are more vulnerable to freezing, reported AP.
Paul Schaberg, a U.S. Forest Service plant pathologist, said, "As time goes on and climates change even more, other species, other locations, are likely to experience similar kinds of progressions, so you might do well to understand this one so you can address those future things."
"Lady & The Tramp"-Like Scenes
Scientists at the British Met Office warn that Italy may soon be forced to import the basic ingredients to make pasta because climate change will make it impossible to grow durum wheat domestically. The crop could almost disappear from the country later this century, scientists say.
Home Sweet Home (For Kiribatians)
Along with the Maldives and other island nations, Kiribati is also threatened by climate change. Earlier this year, the president's cabinet endorsed a plan to spend about $9.6 million for 6,000 acres on Fiji's main island, reported AP.
President Anote Tong told AP, "We would hope not to put everyone on one piece of land, but if it became absolutely necessary, yes, we could do it." He added, "It wouldn't be for me, personally, but would apply more to a younger generation. For them, moving won't be a matter of choice. It's basically going to be a matter of survival."
Super Duper Fast Wi-Fi Connection
A 2011 report from the U.K.'s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs found that climate change could affect certain infrastructure, like wireless internet. The Guardian reports, "higher temperatures can reduce the range of wireless communications, rainstorms can impact the reliability of the signal, and drier summers and wetter winters may cause greater subsidence, damaging masts and underground cables," according to secretary of state for the environment.
The Guardian notes, "The government acknowledges that the impact of climate change on telecommunications is not well understood, but the report raises a series of potential risks."
The Great Smoky Mountains' Smoke
The Great Smoky Mountains have the most annual rainfall in the southeastern U.S., which mostly falls as a light, misty rain, explains OurAmazingPlanet.
A study by a team from NASA's Precipitation Measurement Missions found that "light rainfall is the dominant form of precipitation in the region, accounting for 50 to 60 percent of a year's total, governing the regional water cycle."
California Beach Bums
Along the California coast, beach communities are finding that it may be impossible to stop coastal erosion as global sea levels rise.
According to AP, David Revell, a senior coastal scientist at ESA PWA, acknowledged the relentless power of the sea, saying, "I like to think of it as getting out of the way gracefully."
A report released in June by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that West Coast ocean levels will rise several inches in the next few decades. Sea levels along the California coast are expected to be six inches higher by 2030 and three feet higher by the end of the century.
Despite the risks, another recent NRDC study found that California is one of several states with the best plans to deal with the effects of climate change.
Repeats Of The Titanic
2012 could be a record year for the extent of Arctic sea ice at its yearly summer minimum. Walt Meier, a research scientist at the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center, said that with recent satellite observations, "It definitely portends a low-ice year, whether it means it will go below 2007 (the record minimum in September), it is too early to tell," reported LiveScience.
As sea ice declines in the Arctic, countries are anticipating a competition for control of shipping lanes and mineral extraction in the region.
In Antarctica, research from the United States' Palmer Station on the Antarctic Peninsula has found that "87 percent of the peninsula's land-bound glaciers are in retreat," reported OurAmazingPlanet.
Decreasing sea ice levels were also addressed in a recent spoof of Shell's plans to drill for oil in the Arctic this summer.
Crazy Sugar Highs
Climate change has already impacted sugarcane production in Indonesia.
In late 2011, the chairman of the Indonesian Sugarcane Farmers Association said, "sugarcane production decreased by up to 30 percent in 2011 due to climate change that has occurred since 2009."