A new White House report on how climate change will affect the United States is a catalog of doomsday scenarios that could play out in every region of the country — billion-dollar floods in Boston, killer heat waves in Chicago, forest-scorching wildfires in the Rockies and toxic algae in the Great Lakes.
It details how rising sea levels, higher temperatures and extreme weather could change everyday life and local economies in America if they proceed apace.
There will be effects at every level: individual (rain-swamped sewage systems could give your child diarrhea); community-based (a storm surge could wipe out your waterfront condo complex); and sweeping (whole forests changing species).
Could lack of water leave parts of the West uninhabitable as the end of the century nears? Will Phoenix, Arizona, simply become too hot a place to live? Could East Coast flooding turn Manhattan into a place to avoid?
"There will be some population shifts,” said Doug Parker, director of the California Institute for Water Resources.
"But I don't think there will be wholesale (changes) — like no one can live in Phoenix anymore, although people there may eventually begin to ask themselves how much they’re really willing to pay for air conditioning."
The bigger questions will come later, with the most dramatic changes taking place decades from now.
That's why Minda Berbeco of the National Center for Science Education said it's crucial that the adults of tomorrow — who will be forced to contend with the fish-poisoning outbreaks, virus-carrying mosquitos, chronic water shortages and crop losses — are educated on the climate changes happening today.
"It's not only a multigenerational problem — it's a huge opportunity," she said. "For each of the challenges pointed out in the report, there's an opportunity to work with mitigation and adaptation. This isn't just an adult problem. It's an everyone problem."
Here are just some of the worst-case scenarios outlined in the report, region by region: Read More