Climate Action

These charts show how hot the US might be by 2090

A U.S. military helicopter travels over the pacific ocean past a setting sun near Cardiff, California June 24, 2015.   REUTERS/Mike Blake       TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

These maps show how hot the U.S. could get in 2090 Image: REUTERS/Mike Blake

Adam Jezard
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United States

Climate change has been a burning political and social topic for a long time – and a set of maps showing how the United States could be affected by climate change between now and the end of the century are likely to make discussions even hotter.

The charts, produced by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), part of the US Department of Commerce, are based on a range of average temperature predictions that depend on whether man-made CO2 emissions are stabilized or not.

What the maps show is that, even if drastic action is taken to ensure CO2 emissions are reduced and the global temperature does not rise more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, the world is still in for a hot old time.

On this basis, even if the world gets its act together, average maximum summer temperatures across most of the nation will rise from the low to mid-60s°F (17-20°C), to somewhere in the 80-90°F (27-32°C) range or above.

Average stabilized maximum temperature 2010 Image: NOAA
Average predicted stabilized maximum temperature 2090 Image: NOAA

Meanwhile, if nothing is done to reduce emissions, the outlook is even hotter. From the same mid-60s°F range now, the average maximum summer temperatures could rise to nearer 100°F-110°F.

Average predicted unstabilized maximum temperature 2090 Image: NOAA

Health, wealth and coffee

The maps highlight the impact that rising temperatures are likely to have on the US and beyond. For example, how agriculture and coastal habitats may be affected, and how the changes could affect global gross domestic product and health.

Coffee drinkers (as well as growers) could be one group who will suffer, as recent studies have suggested high quality and value coffee-growing areas, such as Ethiopia, could lose up to 60% of available farming land because of climate change.

And 2016 research by Coffee World has even suggested that, although demand for the beverage could have doubled by 2050, the amount of land required to grow it on could have halved.

Meanwhile, on the health front, the US Environmental Protection Agency has warned that increases in global temperature could lead to increased risks of heat stroke and dehydration, as well as rises in cardiovascular, respiratory and cerebrovascular diseases.

“Changes in the climate affect the air we breathe both indoors and outdoors,” the EPA says. “Warmer temperatures and shifting weather patterns can worsen air quality, which can lead to asthma attacks and other respiratory and cardiovascular health effects.

“Wildfires, which are expected to continue to increase in number and severity as the climate changes, create smoke and other unhealthy air pollutants. Rising carbon dioxide levels and warmer temperatures also affect airborne allergens.”

So can the world manage to achieve the target of keeping the global temperature from rising 2°C?

In 2016, 174 countries and the European Union adopted the Paris Agreement and agreed to work to limit global temperature rise to well below 2°C, and even strive for 1.5°C. But the US, one of the world’s biggest emitters, has since said it will withdraw from the deal under President Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, many scientists feel achieving the 2°C target itself is a largely symbolic gesture and should be set lower, as even at this temperature sea levels are likely to rise and there is an increased risk of droughts and crop shortages.

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