Concord, New Hampshire—On the heels of a summer that saw many parts of the country hit by record heat, severe storms and damaging floods, a new Environment New Hampshire report documents how global warming could lead to extreme weather events becoming even more common in the future. The report also highlighted recent extreme weather events that have impacted southern New Hampshire, such as 2010’s floods. That flooding caused $1.8 million in damages in New Hampshire.
“2010’s Northeast flooding was just one example of how extreme weather causes extremely big problems for New Hampshire’s economy,” said Simone Balog, Environment New Hampshire Federal Field Associate. “Given that unchecked global warming will likely fuel even more severe weather, we need to start cutting global warming pollution now.”
The new report, entitled Global Warming and Extreme Weather: The Science, the Forecast, and the Impacts on America, details the latest science linking global warming to hurricanes, coastal storms, extreme precipitation, wildfires and heat waves. The report also summarized some of the most damaging recent weather events nationally, including 2010’s Northeast floods and 2008’s Hurricane Ike.
The report was released as Congress considers several bills to let polluters off the hook by blocking global warming pollution standards for some of the largest pollution sources. At the same time, the Obama administration is poised to advance new fuel economy and global warming pollution standards for cars and trucks—standards that would achieve substantial reductions in global warming pollution while also cutting oil use and saving consumers money at the gas pump. Environment New Hampshire urged the Obama administration to enact standards for cars and trucks that will ensure the average new car can travel 60 miles on a gallon of gas by 2025.
“Using American ingenuity to make our cars and trucks go farther on a gallon of gas is one of the easiest ways to cut global warming pollution and thus decrease the threat of severe weather, all while saving New Hampshire citizens money at the pump and slashing our oil use,” said Balog. “We applauded the Obama administration for the clean car standards they issued earlier this year, and we hope the President seizes the opportunity to realize even greater benefits with this next round of standards.”
Environment New Hampshire was joined by State Senate Majority Leader Maggie Hassan, State Senator Jackie Cilley, and Michael Bartlett, President of New Hampshire Audubon Society in releasing the new report.
Senator Cilley, member of the Energy and Environment Committee, highlighted the value of a pristine environment for our economy. She said, “It's not a question of if the ecosystems exist. It's a matter of if that ecosystem is desirable. It is critical to maintain environmentally sound ecosystems here in New Hampshire. Our environment is a major reason why in 2009, 33.6 million trips were made into New Hampshire by visitors who spent an estimated $4.169 billion.”
Extreme weather also threatens our wildlife. “Catastrophic climatic events like those we’ve recently seen in the U.S. and around the world can have dramatic effects,” said Michael Bartlett of New Hampshire Audubon. “Over one third of the species that nest in New Hampshire, including our state bird, the purple finch, are declining.”
Balog noted that while no single event can be entirely attributed to global warming, a warming climate is increasing the odds of more extreme weather. Each weather event arises from a combination of short-term weather patterns and long-term climatic trends, and global warming “loads the dice” for severe weather.
“Today’s report shows how the March flooding was just a taste of what’s to come for New Hampshire unless we tackle global warming,” said Balog.
Key findings from the Environment New Hampshire report include:
• Sea level at many locations along the East Coast has been rising at a rate of nearly 1 foot per century due to the expansion of sea water as it has warmed and due to the melting of glaciers. In the Mid-Atlantic region alone, at least 900,000 people live in areas that would be threatened by a 3.3 foot (1 meter) rise in sea level.
• Global warming is projected to bring more frequent heavy downpours and snowfalls, since warmer air can hold more water vapor. Already, the number of heavy precipitation events in the United States increased 24 percent between 1948 and 2006, helping to make flooding the most common weather-related disaster in the U.S. Recent years have seen a string of incredibly destructive floods and snowstorms, including the 2008 Midwest flood that caused $8 to $10 billion in damage and 2010’s “Snowmaggedon” that cost the East Coast more than $2 billion.
• Heat waves are projected to be more frequent, more intense, and last longer due to global warming. Heat waves are among the most lethal of extreme weather events, as illustrated by a 2006 heat wave that affected the entire contiguous United States and was blamed for at least 147 deaths in California and another 140 deaths in New York City.