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Government report says snowmobiling, maple syrup, and lobster fishing are being hurt by climate change

Along with melting glaciers and more intense heat weaves, a report released by the Obama administration today outlines the detrimental effects of global warming on winter recreation, power generation, fisheries, and even maple syrup.

“It is clear that climate change is happening now,” Jerry Melillo, lead author of the report and an ecologist at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., said at a press conference.  “The observed climate changes we report are not opinions to be debated, they are facts to be reported.”

Beginning in 1990, the United States Global Change Research Program has been required to report every 10 years on the natural and anthropogenic effects of climate change in the United States. The 188-page report was written with input from 13 federal agencies and President Barack Obama’s science advisor, John Holdren.

At the news conference, Melillo began by spelling out dramatic changes taking place in the Northeast United States. “The center of maple syrup production has shifted from the U.S. to Canada,” he said, noting that the domestic industry is expected to decline substantially in the coming years. Apples, cranberries, and other fruits that require winter chilling will also decline with warmer temperatures.  The center of lobster fisheries is projected to shift northward, and the cod fishery will decline around Georges bank. Ice fishing, skiing, and snowmobiling will no longer be possible in some areas, which could have a significant economic impact on the $7.6 billion winter sports industry.

On a national scale, the report describes how reduced snow on mountaintops, for instance, will lead to water shortages affecting spawning salmon, hydroelectric power plants, and agricultural water supplies.  Higher temperatures could cause more heat-related deaths, water-borne and insect-transmitted diseases, along with an increase in asthma.

The report outlines options for adapting to climate change by switching to crops suited to warmer and drier conditions and moving business centers away from coastal areas.  However, the report warns that there are limits to adaptation, and we most be prepared for conflicts due to mass migrations of people from areas with food and water shortages.

One journalist in the audience asked whether there was political pressure to water down the findings, as had happened  during the Bush administration. “There was no political pressure to change anything in this report,” Melillo replied, “This is about scientific integrity.”

Image of maple syrup courtesy Brett L. via Flickr

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