Will climate change affect flower population?

Will climate change affect flower population?

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There is a flower population elevated 1000 meters above sea level. If climate change causes a 12⁰C increase in temperature over the next 10 years, what will happen to the flowers?

Its really hard to say for any given field of flowers and its hard to separate temperature from so many other factors that are accompanying climate change.

For example, rainfall is changing as well as CO₂ levels. The pH of the rain may change because CO₂ becomes a mild acid when its absorbed into water. The speed at which the seasonal temperatures vary and how cold is the minimum temperature and how hot is the hottest day will cause parasites and infections which kill plants to appear.

To be sure the heat is important, but the timing maybe just as important. The temperature is causing earlier blooms and later growing seasons.

Each different species is responding differently, but odds are that nearly any given field of flowers is going to feel it. The temperature is important, but its sometimes hard to guess if its the specific culprit in changes.

Making one change in an ecological system is much like eating one salted peanut.

A: If you only assume a 12⁰ change (which is really large) then the net effect is not only warmer but dryer. Higher temperatures mean faster evaporation, faster transpiration.

B: Warmer may also mean that some pest has a limiting factor removed. Look at the problem northern British Columbia has had with Mountain Pine Beatle. The pines are fine with the warmer winters. But the lack of cold winters has allowed the beatle population to explode.

C: Some plants are adapted to a large temperature range. Look at the range for dandelion. So warmer temps may make them grow faster and set seed sooner.

D: Some plants are adapted to a narrow temp range, and will die out.

One of the questions is, "If the change is slow enough, won't they just move up the mountain. In some cases yes. We can look at turn of the century (1900) photographs of mountains, and we can see the tree line -- both at the top, where it meets tundra, and at the bottom where it meets prairie -- has moved up the mountain.

However it also depends on the soil. And soils neither move fast, nor are created fast.

Example: Lot of articles think Canada will win big with global warming, because more northerly land will be suitable for farming. Not so. Most of the land that has reasonable soil is already farmed. The soil north of that point tends to be mostly peat moss bogs, and glacial till. In addition over half that country is the Precambrian shield -- endless miles of granite under 2-3 inches of moss and gravel, with bogs and lakes between. The equivalent of a rural gravel road costs millions of dollars a mile to punch through this country.

Will climate change affect flower population? - Biology

The differences in each leaf’s color and shape represents a form of biodiversity. Photo: chensiyuan via Wikimedia Commons

By Lauren Harper

Every autumn, as winter winds begin to blow and rain colorful leaves from the trees, you may notice the differences in each leaf’s color and shape. This is a form of biodiversity, or the variety of living organisms on earth.

Biodiversity can be seen within species, between species, and within and between ecosystems. Although biodiversity is hard to measure on a global scale, in recent years there has been scientific consensus that the planet’s biodiversity is in decline. That’s not great news, because in general, the more species that live in an area, the healthier that ecosystem is—and the better off we humans are.

Why Biodiversity Matters

Water hyacinth, an invasive species, can take over entire lakes, pushing out native species and reducing biodiversity. Here, a worker sprays herbicide on a mat of hyacinth. Photo: California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways

Healthy ecosystems require a vast assortment of plant and animal life, from soil microbes to top level predators like bears and wolves. If one or more species is removed from this environment, no longer serving its niche, it can harm the ecosystem. Introducing foreign or invasive species into a habitat can have similar results, as the invasive species can out-compete the native species for food or territory.

Biodiversity affects our food, medicine, and environmental well-being.

Dragonflies, ladybugs and beetles pollinate many of the crops we rely on for food, as well as plants in natural ecosystems. One type of pollinator cannot do it all, hence the importance of biodiversity. Loss of habitat—for example, when humans convert meadows into parking lots or backyards—is reducing pollinator populations. If pollinators were to disappear entirely, we would lose over one-third of all crop production. This would reduce or eliminate the availability of foods like honey, chocolate, berries, nuts and coffee.

Many modern medicines, like aspirin, caffeine and morphine, are modeled after chemical compositions found in plants. If undiscovered or uninvestigated wildlife species disappear, it would disadvantage scientists trying to uncover new sources of inspiration for future vaccines and medications.

Biodiversity also provides ecosystem services or benefits to people. These benefits include: hurricane storm surge protection, carbon sequestration, water filtration, fossil fuel generation, oxygen production and recreational opportunities. Without a myriad of unique ecosystems and their respective diverse plant and animal life, our quality of life may become threatened.

Climate Impacts

To many, the term “climate change” feels like a buzzword that encompasses a large amount of negative impacts. Climate means the average weather conditions in an area over a long period of time—usually 30 years or longer. A region’s climate includes systems in the air, water, land and living organisms. Climate change is the shift or abnormal change in climate patterns. As the planet warms quickly, mostly due to human activity, climate patterns in regions around the world will fluctuate. Ecosystems and biodiversity will be forced to fluctuate along with the regional climate, and that could harm many species.

Bees and other pollinators are threatened by habitat loss. You can help by planting native flowers in your yard. Photo: Lauren Harper

These climate change impacts are in part due to how we have altered land use. Turning natural areas into cities or agricultural fields not only diminishes biodiversity, but can make warming worse by chopping down trees and plants that help cool the planet. Changes in climate can also intensify droughts, decrease water supply, threaten food security, erode and inundate coastlines, and weaken natural resilience infrastructure that humans depend on.

Politicians have proposed several solutions, plans and international agreements to tackle the long-standing issues that biodiversity loss and climate change present. In the meantime, we as individuals can take small actions in our daily lives to reduce our environmental impacts on the planet. Unplugging your unused appliances, changing to LED lightbulbs, carpooling, and participating in meatless Monday are all ways we can help to slow climate change. Growing native plants and staying informed about the origins and the ethics behind the products you purchase is another way you can help. These types of behavioral shifts can steer businesses and policy makers toward incorporating sustainable practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and halt biodiversity loss.

Lauren Harper is an intern in the Earth Institute communications department. She is a graduate student in the Environmental Science and Policy Program at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs.

Potential Effects of Global Change on Bats

It is generally believed that bat populations have declined worldwide in recent decades. Because bats have low reproductive rates, populations are very susceptible to elevated mortality or depressed recruitment. There is developing concern about the conservation status of bats as many species of bats are increasingly affected by multiple actions of humans. Bats face multiple threats of ignorance, suspicion, pesticide poisoning, roost destruction and closure, habitat loss, over-exploitation, and extermination as pests. Among mammals, bats are the second most diverse order (after rodents) and occur on all continents except Antarctica. Bats often range widely in their foraging activities and habitat modifications such as urbanization, agriculture, and other land use practices may affect local plant and insect populations and thus the food resources of bats. At present, however, virtually nothing is known of the specific effects of global warming on bats although certain predictions can be made based on the biology of bats.

Other species of bats, especially in temperate zones, are insectivorous and collectively consume large quantities of insects. Just as pollinating activities of bats are important to plant ecology, the insectivorous food habits of bats play an important role in maintaining a balance among insect populations. Although studies of bats have demonstrated some flexibility in food habits over time, most species appear to be specialized to pursue and capture selected kinds or categories of insects. Furthermore, bats are dependent upon a reliable and consistent "supply" of prey, even though specific insect populations grow and disappear over the course of a summer season. Changes in worldwide insect population occurrence or distribution can be expected to affect numbers and species diversity of bats.

In temperate latitudes, both northern and southern, bats avoid seasonal food shortages by either hibernating, often in caves or mines, or by migrating to regions where food is still available. We suspect that nearly all attributes of hibernation or migration are mediated by combinations of changes in ambient light regimes, temperature, and food resources. The dependence of temperate-zone bats on the interplay of these factors ultimately revolves around the bats' ability to acquire sufficient energy (in the form of food) to either last them through a hibernation sequence or through the rigors of (sometimes) long-distance migration. Temperature changes that would affect the supply of food to bats or otherwise upset an energy balance that has evolved over millenia should have significant consequences for bats. Also, climate changes that would lead to changes in the internal temperatures of roosts that have been used by bats for decades will force bats to locate and use new or different roosts.

Ecologically, bats exhibit distributional (biogeographic) patterns that reflect preferences for certain life zones or habitats. The majority of bat species occur in tropical and subtropical ecosystems but a significant proportion live in temperate zones that may be more affected by global warming. Some temperate species prefer high-elevation habitats that are more mesic and cooler other species are adapted to live in more arid areas. Bats whose current ranges are limited altitudinally or latitudinally (toward the poles) by cool temperatures may be displaced as the earth warms. Bats restricted to cooler climates, either latitudinally or altitudinally, may be jeopardized by global warming and if unable to adapt or persist will become extinct. Bats already adapted to warm climates may increase both in numbers and geographic ranges. To the extent that global warming alters the zonation of plants and animals (especially insects) around the world, we can expect bats to respond to such forces.

As a part of monitoring effects of global warming, it is particularly critical to continue to assemble information on the basic biology of bats, as well as the status of existing colonies of bats and on trends in numbers over time. Site- and species-specific data may help avoid controversies about the status of species that can arise as a result of decisions based on incomplete information. In terms of impacts of global change on bat populations it will be important to document the change in physical and biotic factors that are important to bats, such as temperature (both ambient and within important roost sites), precipitation, loss or expansion of available habitats, and change in insect and fruit crops. Such monitoring should begin now.

Gene Editing Cover Crops

Yield10 Bioscience is developing both spring and winter varieties of the oilseed Camelina to be used as cover crops. The company wants to make Camelina a high-value cash cover crop, so growers can also benefit from the proteins and oils produced by the plant. Yield10 Bioscience is using CRISPR, which is gene editing technology, to study the plant.

The company has discovered and evaluated multiple genes for increasing seed yield, seed oil content for crops in general and for making new sustainable products from the Camelina crop. They have done greenhouse experiments and field trials with Camelina to determine the potential for developing and commercializing new seed yield, oil content and products.

"We are developing Elite Camelina varieties with higher harvest value based on increased seed yield and oil content enabled by our novel genetic traits," said Peoples.

Yield10 Bioscience worked with a leading U.S. seed company to perform seed scale-up of their CRISPR edited E3902 higher oil content line, as well as two additional Elite Camelina lines. This cycle of seed scale-up will enable future planting at the 100- to 1,000-acre scale while producing oil and meal for customer sampling.

In addition to the E3902 line, which contains edits to three genes involved in oil biosynthesis, Yield10 Bioscience has licensed a series of gene traits from the University of Missouri that show promise to increase oil content in oilseed crops. They have confirmed with USDA-APHIS that several Camelina lines containing edits to C3007 (BADC) are exempt from regulation in the U.S. They are testing the C3007 trait in Camelina and believe it holds promise for boosting oil in canola and soybean as well.

Yield10 Bioscience's winter Camelina field trials in 2021.

Does Population Growth Impact Climate Change?

Does the rate at which people are reproducing need to be controlled to save the environment?

Dear EarthTalk: To what extent does human population growth impact global warming, and what can be done about it?
-- Larry LeDoux, Honolulu, HI

No doubt human population growth is a major contributor to global warming, given that humans use fossil fuels to power their increasingly mechanized lifestyles. More people means more demand for oil, gas, coal and other fuels mined or drilled from below the Earth&rsquos surface that, when burned, spew enough carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere to trap warm air inside like a greenhouse.

According to the United Nations Population Fund, human population grew from 1.6 billion to 6.1 billion people during the course of the 20th century. (Think about it: It took all of time for population to reach 1.6 billion then it shot to 6.1 billion over just 100 years.) During that time emissions of CO2, the leading greenhouse gas, grew 12-fold. And with worldwide population expected to surpass nine billion over the next 50 years, environmentalists and others are worried about the ability of the planet to withstand the added load of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere and wreaking havoc on ecosystems down below.

Developed countries consume the lion&rsquos share of fossil fuels. The United States, for example, contains just five percent of world population, yet contributes a quarter of total CO2 output. But while population growth is stagnant or dropping in most developed countries (except for the U.S., due to immigration), it is rising rapidly in quickly industrializing developing nations. According to the United Nations Population Fund, fast-growing developing countries (like China and India) will contribute more than half of global CO2 emissions by 2050, leading some to wonder if all of the efforts being made to curb U.S. emissions will be erased by other countries&rsquo adoption of our long held over-consumptive ways.

&ldquoPopulation, global warming and consumption patterns are inextricably linked in their collective global environmental impact,&rdquo reports the Global Population and Environment Program at the non-profit Sierra Club. &ldquoAs developing countries&rsquo contribution to global emissions grows, population size and growth rates will become significant factors in magnifying the impacts of global warming.&rdquo

According to the Worldwatch Institute, a nonprofit environmental think tank, the overriding challenges facing our global civilization are to curtail climate change and slow population growth. &ldquoSuccess on these two fronts would make other challenges, such as reversing the deforestation of Earth, stabilizing water tables, and protecting plant and animal diversity, much more manageable,&rdquo reports the group. &ldquoIf we cannot stabilize climate and we cannot stabilize population, there is not an ecosystem on Earth that we can save.&rdquo

Many population experts believe the answer lies in improving the health of women and children in developing nations. By reducing poverty and infant mortality, increasing women&rsquos and girls&rsquo access to basic human rights (health care, education, economic opportunity), educating women about birth control options and ensuring access to voluntary family planning services, women will choose to limit family size.

Will climate change affect flower population? - Biology

The intertidal zone, which lies between the high and low tide marks on the shores of the world’s oceans, is a sensitive indicator of the effects of climate variability and climate change on marine species. We examined the effects of long-term temperature changes on the population biology of dominant species in intertidal areas and forecast the impact of climate change on the suitability of estuaries and rocky intertidal shores as nursery grounds for important marine species.

Why We Care
Animals and plants that live in the intertidal zone must contend with the ocean environment at high tide and the terrestrial environment at low tide. As a result, their body temperatures may fluctuate as much as 10° to 20°C over the course of a single low tide. For sedimentary (sand or mud) shores, the target organisms are animals that can either disrupt sediments (e.g., shrimp and worms) or build tubes and reefs (e.g., worms, oysters). For rocky shores, the target organisms are those that occupy and create hard surfaces, such as barnacles and mussels. We forecasted the impact of climate change on the suitability of estuaries and rocky intertidal shores as nursery grounds for commercially and recreationally important marine species.

What We Did
We used biophysical computer models to predict body temperatures of species that provide the ecological foundation in the zone between the tides on the shores of the world’s oceans. We studied barnacles and mussels on rocky shores. Barnacles and mussels control the distribution and abundance of other species in the intertidal zone, because they are able to overgrow their competitors for primary space on the rock. Understanding the influence of climate on these species will allow us to predict the changes in biodiversity and biogeography of marine organisms in response to climate change and variability.

The geographic range of our work was from Alaska to Mexico on the Pacific Coast and Maine to South Carolina on the Atlantic Coast, spanning the geographic limits of these species. NOAA National Estuarine Research Reserves (NERRs) on each coast were included as sample sites and represented different biogeographic provinces.

The project, funded originally and later in part by the NCCOS Ecological Forecasting Program, was led by Dr. David Wethey (University of South Carolina Department of Biological Sciences).

Management Connections
We made important contributions to coastal resource management by developing forecasting tools for coastal managers and planners, especially with the NOAA NERRs. On the West Coast, NERRs sites included Kachemak Bay (AK), Padilla Bay (WA), South Slough (OR), Elkhorn Slough (CA), and Tijuana River (CA). On the East Coast, NERRS sites included Wells Bay (ME), Waquoit Bay (MA), Chesapeake Bay (VA), North Carolina Bays, and North Inlet (SC). Foundation species from each of these regions were identified, and comparisons among species can be made across NERRS sites. We also provide training for NERRs directors and coastal resource managers in the use of the coastal forecasting tools developed.

Benefits of Our Work
In New Zealand, our models were used to explain mass die-offs of sea urchins, which occurred during a period of anomalously high temperature. The project leaders addressed the national NERRS research managers meeting in October 2007, to present the initial results of their work and receive feedback on their model products. We helped the National Weather Service (NWS) develop a new “vegetation type” for their temperature prediction models that includes mussel beds. Also, associated NASA remote sensing funding shows the importance of our work for predicting the climate change impacts to coastal intertidal organisms.

The tick population is booming. Is climate change to blame? And will tick-borne diseases increase?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the number of tick-borne diseases is increasing at a record pace while the geographic range of ticks continues to expand. Lyme disease is the most commonly known tick-borne disease, but other diseases, such as ehrlichiosis and STARI, have been discovered and the list of tick-related illnesses continues to grow.

Tick bites have even been found to cause allergic reactions to red meat in some people.

Is a warming climate responsible for this growing tick threat? Should we expect more ticks and tick-related diseases this year because this past winter was warm and wet? And how do we protect ourselves from ticks?

I interviewed Matthias Leu, an ecologist and assistant professor at the College of William & Mary, to find answers to these questions and to learn more about tick prevention. The interview is below.

Does weather influence tick populations? For example, does a warm winter lead to more ticks, or does a cold winter lead to less ticks?

So far, we have not found an association with weather and tick populations. Many people think cold winters kill ticks. If that is true, why do ticks live in northern states, like Minnesota and Wisconsin? What does influence the tick population is the amount of deer and mice available to serve as hosts for the ticks.

The Washington area has experienced agrowing deer population over recent decades. Has the tick population increased in direct proportion?

Yes, urbanization has led to a growing population of deer and mice, which are used by the ticks for blood meals, and that in turn increases the tick population. Flowers and bushes planted by homeowners are feeding the deer well.

Have tick-borne diseases increased, and does weather influence the spread of these diseases?

Yes, tick diseases have increased and one tick-borne disease in particular, ehrlichiosis, is impacted by the weather. Ehrlichiosis, which produces symptoms much like Lyme disease, is passed to humans by Lone Star ticks that feed on fawns or other hosts, such as rabbits and squirrels. Adult deer have stronger immune systems, which keeps the ehrlichia bacteria in check, but fawns carry much more of the bacteria. During cold winters, when the number of fawns is likely lower, the bacteria is not as widespread, which lowers the disease rate. The opposite is true during warm winters.

Cierra Sullivan is a graduate student in the Clemson University Department of Biological Sciences in Clemson, South Carolina.

IRA FLATOW: While we’re on the topic of climate change and plants, there is something else that’s been happening to our plants because of a warming planet. I’m talking about flower colors are changing. Yeah. A new study looked at flower records as far back as the 1800s and found that the flowers of some species in the US have sort of morphed into lighter shades of color. Some are more vibrant. What’s going on here?

Well, the lead author of that study joins us to explain, Cierra Sullivan, a graduate student at Clemson University’s Department of Biological Sciences in Clemson, South Carolina. Welcome to Science Friday.

CIERRA SULLIVAN: Hi. Thank you so much for having me. It’s great to be here.

IRA FLATOW: So nice to have you. Let’s talk about this. So flower colors are changing? Is there a pattern? They’re changing from one color to another?

CIERRA SULLIVAN: Yeah. So actually some flowers are becoming darker, becoming more of your purples and pinks. Whereas some are actually becoming whiter and being more white and cream in color.

IRA FLATOW: Can you give me an idea? If I go outside this spring and I go to look at a flower in my flower bed, is there any flower I could look at to say, hey, that used to be purple, or it’s getting more purple or something like that?

CIERRA SULLIVAN: There could be some. There are some species, I guess. They’re wild but some like to put in their lawn. So if you’re familiar with something called Dame’s or Rocket or there’s something called Nodding Onion that would looked at. It’s also wild. It’s an onion. So depending on how much of a plant person, you may already have these in your garden. Or if you go on trails, you might be able to see them all over the United States.

IRA FLATOW: Wow. And so over what period of time are we talking about for this change to happen?

CIERRA SULLIVAN: So this was– our oldest plant was from 1895. And our most recent one was from 2019. So that’s over a span of 124 years.

IRA FLATOW: Wait. You said 2019. Are you saying that something changed from 2019 till now?

CIERRA SULLIVAN: Yes. We’ve had things changing up till, like, two years ago we have some proof of.

IRA FLATOW: Wow. And why are they changing?

CIERRA SULLIVAN: So from our study, what we looked at was climate. And the biggest drivers we saw was temperature and something called vapor pressure deficit. And if you don’t know what that last one is, it’s pretty much a measure that relates to relative humidity with temperature. And it’s kind of the amount of aridity in the air, so how much sucking out the moisture of the air it has. That’s pretty much simply what vapor pressure deficit is.

IRA FLATOW: That’s sounds like a really technical word for dry.

CIERRA SULLIVAN: Yeah, dry, arid, pretty much what that means.

IRA FLATOW: What kinds of records were you looking at to make these color comparisons?

CIERRA SULLIVAN: So one I looked at was some online herbarium records. And these are pretty much just time capsules of plants, pressed plants. And those records, they’ll tell me where the plant was taken. It’ll tell me the color, what it looked like at the time. So I use that to just say is this white or pigmented? And then from those coordinates of where the plants were collected, there are these climate databases called Prism or WorldClim. And that’s where with the coordinates, I was able to get the temperature, the vapor pressure deficit things at that specific location that the plant was collected.

IRA FLATOW: This is Science Friday from WNYC Studios, talking to Cierra Sullivan, graduate student at Clemson University’s Department of Biological Sciences in Clemson, South Carolina about how climate change is changing flower colors. Let’s talk about that location. Is that location spread all– or locations, I guess I should say, are they spread all over the country?

CIERRA SULLIVAN: Yeah. So we limited this study to just plants that are found in North America, whether it’s invasive or a native, just plants found in North America.

IRA FLATOW: And how many kinds of plants are we talking about?

CIERRA SULLIVAN: So this we had 12 different species. But altogether we had 1,944 records in the study.

IRA FLATOW: And you went through each one of those records?

CIERRA SULLIVAN: Yeah, I had to go through each one of those records and give them a color score.

IRA FLATOW: So sort of an artistic challenge also. I mean, isn’t that sort of subjective to give them a color score?

CIERRA SULLIVAN: Yeah. So definitely some of the colors like mauve, I had to look up on Google, what is that. So there is some subjectiveness to it. But to try to get rid of that bias, I’d make groups of just generally pink, purple, blue, and then just generally is this white to try and eliminate the pinkiness of it.

IRA FLATOW: Yeah. I’m thinking now if I’m a bee or an insect, a pollinator, and I’m used to seeing a color of a plant, and suddenly it’s a different color, am I in trouble?

CIERRA SULLIVAN: Not necessarily. So, of course, there are visually-seeking pollinators but there are other cues such as maybe nectar rewards or things like that. So your pollinator may be tripped up at first, but they do learn that this is the same thing. It’s just a different color.

IRA FLATOW: They do learn that? They evolve with the changing color of the plant?

CIERRA SULLIVAN: Yeah, they can learn. They do have preferences. But that doesn’t totally mean it won’t ever go to its less preferable plant.

IRA FLATOW: Changing flower colors sounds pretty wild. It’s not a bad thing, is it?

CIERRA SULLIVAN: No, it’s bad because even before this study, plants, as well as animals, we always respond to our environment. The study is pretty much capturing plants responding to its changing climatic environment. So it’s not bad. It’s really more of an observation of this. We saw this happening.

IRA FLATOW: So the plants are not migrating with the climate. You didn’t study that, moving north or south with the weather as it changes– as the climate changes. You’re just saying that the colors of the plants are changing.

CIERRA SULLIVAN: Yeah, so that same population, for instance, let’s just say in Virginia, just had a shift in color of the same population.

IRA FLATOW: If I were to look at the same plant, let’s say, in Virginia and then look at the same plant, let’s say, growing in Maine, would they be different colors?

CIERRA SULLIVAN: They could be because a lot of the species actually have a very ubiquitous range, or they’re found everywhere in the United States versus there are only some that were endemic to, for example, the South of California. So, yeah, it’s possible with a wide range you could see one population, Virginia, it’d change color. But maybe up in Maine, where maybe the changes in temperature weren’t as drastic, it’s actually the same. But just in the south, those flowers changed color.

IRA FLATOW: Boy, I love plants. And I go out all the time looking at them. I can see you getting into arguments with folks who come from different states. You know what I mean? No, that’s supposed to be purple. No, it’s changed color. Sure, it has.

CIERRA SULLIVAN: Yeah, I can see that.

IRA FLATOW: Absolutely. We’ll have you back. Cierra Sullivan, graduate student at Clemson University’s Department of Biological Sciences in Clemson, South Carolina, thank you for enlightening us today.

CIERRA SULLIVAN: Yeah. Thank you for having me. This is great.

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Cool specialists

It has long been known that bumblebees are more suited to cold weather, with their fuzzy bodies and ability to generate heat while flying, which often allows them to be the first bees out in the spring. Exactly how vulnerable they are to heat waves and weather fluctuations still isn’t clear for most species, though this study suggests there’s a limit to their adaptability.

And it is indeed warming up. The last five years were the hottest ever recorded in the 139 years that the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has tracked global heat.

There are several mechanisms at play, says study co-author Jeremy Kerr. The insects can simply overheat, as lab experiments have shown, but there may also be indirect impacts on vegetation and flowers that could lead to the bees starving, he adds.

Will climate change affect flower population? - Biology

As global greenhouse gases are projected to hit a new high for 2019, Petteri Taalas of the World Meteorological Organization recently declared, “Things are getting worse.” A 2019 poll found that only 24 percent of U.S. respondents believed climate change would have a great deal of impact on their lives 31 percent believed it would have a fair amount of impact.

Different regions of the country will be affected in different ways, some more than others. But there are certain impacts that will probably affect every American’s way of life. Here are 10 of them.

1. Damage to your home

Floods, the most common and deadly natural disasters in the U.S., will likely be exacerbated and intensified by sea level rise and extreme weather. Heavy precipitation is projected to increase throughout the century to potentially three times the historical average. A 2018 study found that over 40 million Americans are at risk of flooding from rivers, and over 8.6 million people live in areas that already experience coastal flooding from storm surges during hurricanes. FEMA estimated that even one inch of floodwater in an average-sized home could cost homeowners almost $27,000 in damages.

In September, Adam Sobel, founding director of Columbia University’s Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate, testified before the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. He asserted that scientists have strong evidence that global warming will increase the frequency or intensity of heavy rain events, and coastal flooding due to hurricane storm surge is also worsening because of sea level rise and increased precipitation.

In addition, he said, the frequency and intensity of droughts and wildfires are on the rise. While no state is immune to wildfires, 13 states in the West are considered susceptible to the most severe wildfire damage, with California having the most acres burned in 2018. A national analysis found that 775,654 homes are at extreme risk of wildfire in these 13 states. But even if homes do not burn to the ground, they may suffer smoke and fire damage, as well as water damage and flooding from fire fighting efforts.

How to protect yourself

  • Apply sealants and coatings to prevent floodwaters from entering your house
  • Install a sump pump
  • Keep your gutters and drains clear
  • Where flooding occurs regularly, raise your home up on stilts or piles
  • Remove dry vegetation around the house
  • When replacing a roof, opt for tile or metal
  • Take all evacuation warnings seriously and have an emergency supply kit ready to go

2. More expensive home insurance

As insurance companies pay out huge amounts to homeowners whose houses have been damaged by climate change impacts, many are raising premiums to offset their costs. Home insurance rates increased more than 50 percent between 2005 and 2015.

In high-risk areas, premiums and deductibles may rise, coverage may be more limited, and insurance could ultimately become unaffordable or unavailable for some, especially in climate-vulnerable areas. For Connecticut homeowners, insurance rates have gone up 35 percent in the last 10 years for homeowners with property along the coast, rates have gone up by over 50 percent. In 2016, California insurance companies would not renew over 10,000 policies for homes in high-risk areas. (Recently, however, the state issued a one-year moratorium preventing insurers from dropping customers who live in areas at risk from wildfire.) Travelers Insurance Company now requires separate deductibles in areas where hurricanes and tornadoes are more common.

Moreover, standard homeowners’ insurance does not cover flooding, so homeowners must buy private insurance or sign up for the National Flood Insurance Program run by FEMA. Due to billions of dollars in payouts for Hurricanes Katrina, Harvey, Irma, Maria and Sandy, however, NFIP is $20.5 billion in debt. In October, FEMA announced that rates would rise 11.3 percent in April 2020, and will be further restructured in October 2021.

How to protect yourself

  • When choosing a home, factor in climate risks
  • Check FEMA flood maps (even though almost 60 percent are out of date)
  • Understand your insurance coverage and needs
  • Shop around for your insurance policy
  • Raise your deductible for lower monthly payments
  • Make your home more disaster-resistant

3. Outdoor work could become unbearable

With continued global warming, heat waves are expected to increase in frequency, duration and intensity. Jane Baldwin, a postdoctoral research scientist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, found that compound heat waves—heat waves that occur in sequence, one after the other—will also increase, making recovery from heat waves more difficult.

Agricultural workers in California Photo: Holgerhubbs

People who work outdoors, such as construction workers, miners, firefighters and agricultural workers, will be most affected by increasing temperatures. Florida, for example, has one of the highest rates of heat-related hospitalizations in the U.S. This summer during a heat wave, the majority of heat-related visits to emergency rooms in Virginia were made by people aged 29-40, 70 percent of whom were men. Indoor workers in warehouses and steel plants can also be affected by excessive heat.

One study suggested that outdoor workers should begin their shifts earlier in the day, but if global warming continues at the current pace, by 2100, they would have to start working four to six hours before dawn. Currently, there are no federal laws that protect workers from heat stress, but in July, a bill was introduced into the House of Representatives that would require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to establish standards to protect those working in the heat.

How to protect yourself

  • Take frequent shade and water breaks
  • Use a damp rag to keep cool
  • Wear light-colored clothing and a hat
  • Know the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke

4. Higher electric bills and more blackouts

As temperatures rise, people will need to stay cool for health and comfort reasons. Climate Central analyzed 244 cities in the U.S. and determined that 93 percent experienced an increase in the number of days that required extra cooling to remain comfortable. As we rely more heavily on air conditioners and fans, electricity bills will get higher.

The increased demand for electricity, especially during peak periods, can also over-tax the electrical grid, triggering brownouts or blackouts. Extreme weather, such as hurricanes, heat waves or snowstorms, can cause power outages too.

Blackout in NYC after Hurricane Sandy
Photo: David Shankbone

Between the mid-1980s and 2012, there was a ten-fold increase in power outages, 80 percent of which were caused by weather.

As wildfires plague California, Pacific Gas & Electric has been preemptively shutting down power to avoid the possibility of sparking fires in the dry, windy conditions. Millions lost power during this year’s blackouts. Pre-emptive blackouts could become a common occurrence.

Brownouts or blackouts can also result if hydropower plants have less water to draw from in rivers and lakes, and if water becomes too warm to cool nuclear or coal power plants.

How to protect yourself

  • Find greener ways to stay cool
  • Install a programmable thermostat and set the temperature higher
  • Run your appliances at night
  • During a blackout, fill the bathtub so you have water to flush toilets keep freezers and refrigerators closed
  • If the power goes out, unplug appliances and electronics to avoid damage from electrical surges
  • Don’t run generators inside the garage or near open windows, to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning

5. Rising taxes

Municipalities are recognizing the need to make their communities more resilient in the face of climate change impacts. Although measures such as building seawalls or hardening infrastructure are hugely expensive, the National Climate Assessment determined that resiliency measures save money in the long run — for example, by reducing coastal property damage to about $800 billion from a projected $3.5 trillion. Paying for mitigation and adaptation measures, however, will likely have to be funded through higher property taxes or “resilience fees.”

Grand Rapids, Michigan had problems with flooding and aging stormwater infrastructure. In 2014, the residents rejected a 13.3 percent income tax cut in order to implement green infrastructure measures that absorb runoff and reduce flooding on streets.

Flooding in Norfolk, Virginia Photo: D. Loftis/VIMS.

In 2018, Norfolk, VA, which is surrounded by water and vulnerable to sea level rise, approved a .10 increase to the real estate tax rate, which will go towards citywide resiliency plans to address flooding. And in the wake of California’s recent wildfires, Marin County is proposing a .10 per square foot parcel tax on property owners across the county to fund wildfire prevention.

How to protect yourself

  • See if you qualify for a tax rebate or credit for renewable energy and/or energy efficiency
  • Check to see if your state gives tax exemptions for seniors, veterans, or the disabled

6. More allergies and other health risks

Warmer temperatures cause the pollen season to be longer and worsen air quality, both of which can result in more allergy and asthma attacks. Ground-level ozone, a major component of smog, which increases when temperatures warm, can also cause coughing, chest tightness or pain, decrease lung function and worsen asthma and other chronic lung diseases.

In addition, after floods or storms, damp buildings may foster mold growth, which has been linked to allergies and other lung diseases.

With rising temperatures, more people will suffer heat cramps, heat exhaustion, hyperthermia (high body temperature) and heat stroke as days that are unusually hot for the season hamper the body’s ability to regulate its temperature. Prolonged exposure to heat can exacerbate cardiovascular, respiratory and kidney diseases, diabetes, and increase the chance for strokes.

Older adults, pregnant women, and children are particularly vulnerable to excess heat. A 2018 paper, written by Madeline Thomson while she was a senior researcher at the Earth Institute’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society, called attention to the fact that children and infants are more vulnerable to dehydration and heat stress, as well as to respiratory disease, allergies and fever during heat waves and to the need for adults to protect them.

As the climate changes, disease-carrying mosquitoes are extending their range, bringing diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, chikungunya and West Nile virus farther north than they’ve ever been. In the summer of 2013, the Aedes aegypti mosquito, usually found in Texas and the southeastern U.S., suddenly appeared in California as far north as San Francisco — fortunately, none of the tested mosquitoes carried dengue or yellow fever. One study projects that Aedes aegypti could reach as far north as Chicago by 2050.

Heat waves, natural disasters, and the disruption in lives they cause can also aggravate mental health. During one recent California wildfire, suicidal and traumatized people flooded emergency rooms.

How to protect yourself

  • When pollen counts are high or air quality is bad, stay indoors
  • During a heat wave, limit outside activity during the hottest hours
  • Stay hydrated
  • Use insect repellent
  • Understand how climate impacts can affect your children and take precautions for them

7. Food will be more expensive and variety may suffer

In the last 20 years, food prices have risen about 2.6 percent each year, and the USDA expects that food prices will continue to rise. While there are several reasons for higher food prices, climate change is a major factor. Extreme weather affects livestock and crops, and droughts can have impacts on the stability and price of food. New York apple farmers, for example, are facing warmer winters and extreme weather, which can wipe out harvests. They are trying to save their apples with new irrigation systems and wind machines that blow warm air during cold spells, but eventually these added costs will be reflected in the price of apples.

As temperatures warm and precipitation increases, more pathogens will thrive and affect plant health in addition, more food will spoil. And because food is a globally traded commodity today, climate events in one region can raise prices and cause shortages across the globe. For example, a drought in Brazil in 2013 and 2014 caused Arabica coffee prices to double.

Michael Puma, director of the Earth Institute’s Center for Climate Systems Research, studies global food security, especially how susceptible the global network of food trade is to natural (e.g., megadroughts, volcanic eruptions) and manmade (e.g., wars, trade restrictions) disturbances. He and his colleagues are building quantitative economic models to examine vulnerabilities in the food system under different scenarios they will use the tool to explore how altering certain policies might reduce the vulnerabilities of the food system to disruptions.

Three-quarters of our crops rely on insects for pollination and scientists believe 41 percent of insect species are threatened with extinction. While habitat loss is the major reason, climate change also plays a large part. If we lose pollinators, that could mean losing some of the crops and varieties they pollinate.

How to protect yourself

  • To save money, cook at home more often and avoid purchasing prepared foods
  • Don’t waste food
  • Buy in bulk
  • Eat less meat

8. Water quality could suffer

Intense storms and heavy precipitation can result in the contamination of water resources. In cities, runoff picks up pollutants from the streets, and can overflow sewage systems, allowing untreated sewage to enter drinking water supplies.

In rural areas, runoff transports animal waste, pesticides and chemical fertilizer, and can enter drinking or recreational waters. Polluted drinking water can cause diarrhea, Legionnaires’ disease, and cholera it can also cause eye, ear and skin infections. In some low-lying coastal areas, sea level rise could enable saltwater to enter groundwater drinking water supplies. And in areas suffering from drought, contaminants become more concentrated as water supplies decrease. In addition, algal blooms thrive in warm temperatures and can contaminate drinking water. In 2014, residents of Toledo, Ohio had to drink bottled water for three days because their water supply was polluted with cyanobacteria toxins.

The Earth Institute’s Columbia Water Center studies the state of fresh water availability in the face of climate change, and the water needs of food production, energy generation and ecosystems. It aims to provide “sustainable models of water management and development” to apply on local, regional and global levels.

How to protect yourself

  • Don’t use water you suspect is contaminated to wash dishes, brush teeth, wash or prepare food, make ice, wash hands or make baby formula
  • Keep bottled water on hand
  • Decrease your household water use, especially during droughts
  • Heed government precautions when drinking water is found to be contaminated and boil your water

9. Outdoor exercise and recreational sports will become more difficult

Reduced snowfall and early snowmelt in the spring will have an impact on skiing, snowmobiling and other winter sports. Less water in lakes and rivers could also affect boating and fishing during summer.

Hotter temperatures, especially in the South and Southwest, will make summer activities like running, biking, hiking and fishing less comfortable and potentially dangerous to your health.

How to protect yourself

  • Shorten your outdoor workout
  • Substitute indoor activities when temperatures are excessively hot
  • Plan outdoor exercise for early or late in the day
  • Choose shady routes if possible
  • Stay hydrated
  • Wear loose, light-colored clothing
  • Keep salty or juicy snacks on hand
  • Know the signs of heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke

10. Disruptions in travel

As temperatures rise, it may get too hot for some planes to fly. In 2015, Radley Horton, associate research professor at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and then Ph.D. student Ethan Coffel published a study calculating how extreme heat could restrict the takeoff weight of airplanes. Hotter air is less dense, so planes get less lift under their wings and engines produce less power. Airlines may be forced to bump passengers or leave luggage behind to lighten their loads. This concern is one reason why long-distance flights from the Middle East leave at night the practice could become standard for the U.S. as well.

Flights can be disrupted due to flooding because many airports are located on low-lying land.

LaGuardia Airport after Hurricane Sandy Photo: peoples world

Superstorm Sandy in 2012 flooded LaGuardia Airport for three days. One runway in Northern Canada had to be repaved because the permafrost on which it was built began melting.

Once in the air, you may experience more turbulence. Stronger winds create more shear (a difference in wind speed over a short distance) in the atmosphere, which results in turbulence. And distant storms can create waves in the atmosphere that cause turbulence hundreds of miles away.

Recreational travel could be upended as climate change impacts many popular destinations. Sea level rise, storm surge and erosion are affecting Waikiki Beach in Hawaii, Miami Beach in Florida, and Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro. Along Florida’s southwest and Gulf coasts, toxic algae blooms have killed fish and turtles, sending the stench and toxins into the air, and making beaches unpleasant and unhealthy.

In the U.S., Montana’s Glacier National Park is losing its glaciers in 1910 it had more than 100, but now fewer than two dozen remain. The Everglades are experiencing salt water intrusion from sea level rise. World heritage sites, too, are being affected by global warming impacts: The Amazon rainforest is threatened by logging and fires, the Arctic is thawing, the snows of Kilamanjaro are melting, and the Great Barrier Reef’s corals are bleaching.

How to protect yourself

  • Change your travel destination
  • Purchase travel insurance
  • Check the weather of your travel destination
  • Fly during the morning to reduce chances of thunderstorms and turbulence
  • On the plane, keep your seat belt buckled as much as possible

As global temperatures continue to rise, climate change will affect our wallets, our health, our safety, and our lives. Many people are already feeling these impacts. And while there are ways to adapt on a personal level, some of these changes are going to become more severe and unavoidable over time. The best way to protect ourselves for the future is to support policies and measures that cut carbon emissions and enhance climate resilience.