Stateside: Scientists draft a National Climate Assessment

Jan 28, 2013

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

More than 240 scientists contributed to a new draft report of the National Climate Assessment. The report addresses the country’s changing climate and is the third federal climate review since 2000.

Professor Rosina Bierbaum of the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan was among the scientists who contributed to the assessment.

“We can certainly do quite a bit to slow the rate of change and we need, simultaneously, to cope with the changes that are already under way,” said Bierbaum.

Consensus over global climate change, Bierbaum noted, is forming.

“Over the 20 years I’ve studied it, the consensus has become much clearer. If you look at the International Science Consensus Body, in 2007 it said, ‘global warming is unequivocal.’”

Those who claim climate change is not occurring are modifying their arguments, said Bierbaum.

According to Bierbaum, they argue now that the climate changes are not that severe.

Bierbaum noted the changes that have already occurred in the Midwest.

“Already, the Midwest has increased one degree in the last 100 years. But if you look at that change, half of it has occurred in the last 30 years. We expect that the Midwest will increase in temperatures over the next 100 years by several degrees Fahrenheit…By the end of the century, Michigan could feel much more like the state of Arkansas. Similarly, we have seen that crops that used to live 120 miles south are able to live in our climate…” said Bierbaum.

According to Bierbaum, Michigan may witness an expanded growing season.

“In the case of agriculture, Michigan may actually do better for a few years in that our growing season is about two weeks longer. If that’s true, and there’s enough water, Michigan could do well for a while.”

However, an extremely hot day in the middle of a growing season could disrupt this progress, said Bierbaum.

Bierbaum noted the efforts of many communities to adapt to the changes in climate.

“The whole field of adaptation is quite nascent compared to the field of mitigation. But, it turns out that lots of communities around the world are trying things now because they are dealing with increased extreme events.”

A lot of cities are looking at green infrastructure, said Bierbaum. These structures would mimic the capabilities of natural ecosystems.