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Climate change in New England: Scientists appeal to politicos to take it seriously

From Green Right Now Reports New Hampshire’s climate would become like North Carolina’s under a “worst case” scenario — if carbon emissions aren’t cutback. (Source: US govt.) Last month, a...

From Green Right Now Reports

New Hampshire’s climate would become like North Carolina’s under a “worst case” scenario — if carbon emissions aren’t cutback. (Source: US govt.)

Last month, a group of 51 scientists in New Hampshire, piqued by the lack of concern for climate change among candidates for public office, issued an open letter explaining why they think it should be a priority issue.

The letter describes how climate change threatens New England’s coastlines and quality of life, its crisp autumns and white winters, a source of great pride and tourism.

With the Republican presidential contenders massed in the state for the New Hampshire primary, set for this coming Tuesday, it time to republish this appeal. (New Hampshire, by the way, has an extensive climate change action plan to reduce energy use and the carbon pollution driving global warming.)

Science and Public Policy in New Hampshire

December, 2011

Back in 1876, Mark Twain aptly remarked “One of the brightest gems in the New England weather is the dazzling uncertainty of it.” Our location halfway between the equator and the North Pole
and sandwiched between the Appalachian Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean makes our weather more than most other places on Earth. New Hampshire’s culture, environment, and economy are
fundamentally integrated with our seasonal climate that traditionally and reliably served up resplendent summers, crisp autumns with spectacular fall foliage, a white Christmas and winter sports, and the eternal
hope of spring. Our citizens have adapted to changing economic and climatic conditions to keep New Hampshire consistently ranked near or at the top as a state with the best quality of life.(1)

New Hampshire’s climate has experienced substantial changes over the past half century (2). Over this period, the northeastern United States has experienced a region-wide winter warming trend of almost
4.o F. The number of days with snow on the ground has decreased an average of one week. Pond hockey and ice fishing have taken a hit as ice breaks up on our lakes more than a week earlier than it used to.
Peak snowmelt runoff in the spring now occurs 7–10 days earlier in northern New England rivers. Increasing extreme rainfall events and flooding, rising seas, and an influx of pests (Lyme-disease-bearing ticks at the top of the list) have emerged as the latest and potentially most serious challenges to our health and our quality of life.

Albany Bridge, New Hampshire (Photo: Free Foto)

We have also endured a significant increase in severe storms. This has resulted in flooding and power outages across the region, including major events in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010 and 2011. From 1986
to 2004, presidentially declared disasters in the state of New Hampshire cost the federal government on average $3.5 million per year; from 2005 to 2008, they cost an average of $25 million per year (3). In
addition, power outages that used to last a day or two now commonly extend over a week or two. Perhaps the most insidious change has been relative sea level, which has risen seven inches during the past
century. This means more coastal flooding as storms move onshore, especially when a nor’easter occurs at high tide.

These shifts in New Hampshire’s climate are clearly connected to changes in global climate. Unfortunately much of the change is accelerating. Given the inertia of the climate system, the most we
can do now is decrease the rate of climate change. As the global climate continues to evolve, we will face new challenges to maintain our health, the prosperity of our state, and our quality of life. The US National
Academy of Sciences together with all major scientific societies has affirmed that most of the observed increase in global temperatures over the past six decades is due to increases in anthropogenic greenhouse
gas emissions. In its recent Quadrennial Defense Review the Pentagon stated that “climate change, energy security, and economic stability are inextricably linked.”(4)

We urge all candidates for public office at national, state, and local levels, and all New Hampshire citizens, to acknowledge the overwhelming balance of evidence for the underlying causes of
climate change, to support appropriate responses to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases, and to develop local and statewide strategies to adapt to near-term changes in climate (5). Ignoring the issue of
climate change places our health, our quality of life, our economic vitality, and our children’s future at risk.

Signed*

Heidi Asbjornsen, Ph.D., Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of New
Hampshire
Semra Aytur, Ph.D., Department of Health Management and Policy, University of New Hampshire
Tom Ballestero, Ph.D., Department of Civil Engineering, University of New Hampshire
Mimi Becker, Ph.D, Department of Natural Resources & the Environment, University of New Hampshire
Jeffrey Bolster, Ph.D., Department of History, University of New Hampshire
Julie Bryce, Ph.D., Department of Earth Sciences, University of New Hampshire
Elizabeth Burakowski, Ph.D. Candidate, Natural Resources and Earth System Sciences, University of
New Hampshire
Rosemarie Came, Ph.D., Department of Earth Sciences, University of New Hampshire
Janet Campbell, Ph.D., Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space (Emeritus), University of New
Hampshire
Benjamin Chandran, Ph.D., Department of Physics, University of New Hampshire
Vaughn Cooper, Ph.D., Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Biomedical Sciences, University of New
Hampshire
Matthew Davis, Ph.D., Department of Earth Sciences, University of New Hampshire
Ellen Douglas, Ph.D., Hydrologist, Portsmouth, NH
Robert Eckert, Ph.D., Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of New
Hampshire
Serita Frey, Ph.D., Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of New Hampshire
Steve Frolking, Ph.D., Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space, University of New Hampshire
Kevin Gardner, Ph.D., Department of Civil Engineering, University of New Hampshire
Filson H. Glanz, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (Emeritus), University of New
Hampshire
John Halstead, Ph.D., Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of New
Hampshire
Lawrence Hamilton, Ph.D., Department of Social Science, University of New Hampshire
Richard Howarth, Ph.D., Environmental Studies Program, Dartmouth College
Stephen Jones, Ph.D., Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of New
Hampshire
Linda Kalnejais, Ph.D., Department of Earth Sciences, University of New Hampshire.
Tom Kelly, Ph.D., Sustainability Academy, University of New Hampshire
Eric Kelsey, Ph.D. Candidate, Natural Resources and Earth System Sciences, University of New
Hampshire
Paul Kirsehn, Ph.D., Department of Civil Engineering, University of New Hampshire
Ray Konisky, Ph.D., Newfields, NH
Richard Lammers, Ph.D., Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space, University of New
Hampshire
William Leavenworth, Ph.D., Marine Historical Ecologist, University of New Hampshire
Anne Lightbody, Ph.D., Department of Earth Sciences, University of New Hampshire
James Malley, Jr., Ph.D., Department of Civil Engineering, University of New Hampshire
William McDowell, Ph.D., Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of New
Hampshire
Robert McLellan, MD, MPH, The Jordan Institute
Shelley Mitchell, Ph.D. Candidate, Natural Resources and Earth System Sciences, University of New
Hampshire
Samuel Miller, Ph.D., Department of Atmospheric Science & Chemistry, Plymouth State University
Carolyn Murray, MD, MPH, Dartmouth Medical School
Science and Public Policy in New Hampshire December, 2011
Philip Nuss, Ph.D. Candidate, Natural Resources and Earth System Sciences, University of New
Hampshire
Scott Ollinger, Ph.D., Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space, University of New Hampshire
Erich Osterberg, Ph.D., Department of Earth Science, Dartmouth College
Tad Pfeffer, Ph.D., Randolph, NH
James Pringle, Ph.D., Department of Earth Sciences, University of New Hampshire
Barrett Rock, Ph.D., Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space, University of New Hampshire
Shannon Rogers, Ph.D., University of New Hampshire
John Slater, Ph.D., School of Arts & Sciences, Southern New Hampshire University
Derek Sowers, M.Sc., Piscataqua Regions Estuaries Project
Jeannie Sowers, Ph.D., Department of Political Science, University of New Hampshire
Stacy VanDeveer, Ph.D., Department of Political Science, University of New Hampshire
Cameron Wake, Ph.D., Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space, University of New
Hampshire
Alison Watts, Ph.D., Environmental Research Group, University of New Hampshire
Robert Woodward, Ph.D., Department of Health Management and Policy, University of New Hampshire
*The views expressed herein are those of the individual signatories.

1 Data from CNBC surveys: http://www.cnbc.com/id/43344770
2 Additional information at Carbon Solutions New England: http://carbonsolutionsne.org/
3 Values in 2009 dollars
4 US Department of Defense: http://www.defense.gov/qdr/
5 Details of mitigation and adaptation options provided in NH’s Climate Action Plan:

http://des.nh.gov/organization/divisions/air/tsb/tps/climate/action_plan/nh_climate_action_plan.htm

Science and Public Policy in New Hampshire December, 2011


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