Edited by Jonathan Verschuuren
Climate change poses one of the most significant challenges ever faced in terms of the stability of civil society, the security of access to natural resources, and the ecological integrity of the human environment. Com- mitted warming and the projected rapid rate of impacts due to climate change will result in an unpredictable and unfamiliar environment, requiring both civil society and natural systems to adapt. Increases in air and water temperatures, reduced frost days, increased frequency and intensity of heavy downpours, a rise in sea levels, reduced snow cover, glaciers, permafrost, and sea ice, a longer ice-free period on lakes and rivers, lengthening of the growing season, and increased water vapor in the atmosphere have also been observed. These climate related changes are expected to continue while new ones develop. Likely future changes for the United States (US) and surrounding coastal waters include more intense hurricanes, with related increases in wind, rain, and storm surges (but not necessarily an increase in the number of these storms that make landfall), as well as drier conditions in southwest regions of the US and the Caribbean. These changes will affect human health, water supply, agriculture, coastal areas, and many other aspects of society and the natural environment. Climate change is also expected to cause substantial impacts on the built environment and physical infrastructure. Sea level rise is expected to impair the security of coastline generation and transmission facilities, accelerate erosion, and adversely affect fresh water supplies. Heat waves and high summer temperatures will result in high demands for electricity for temperature control.
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