Five things Mainers need to know about global warming

Heat, rats, asthma, ice, and water
By SARA DONNELLY  |  May 31, 2006

UNDER THE SEA Scientists predict ocean levels will rise about 2 feet by 2106.1. We’ll Be All Totally Hot. According to Robert Kates, an editor for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the latest IPCC projections estimate average global temperatures will rise by between 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit and 11.2 degrees Fahrenheit over the next 100 years. In the early 1990s, the IPCC and the United Kingdom’s Hadley Centre estimated Maine’s average temperature will rise four degrees by 2100.

2. We’ll Swim Back Cove, Not Run It. Scientists estimate the ocean will rise two feet by 2100, which means parts of Portland that were originally below sea level could flood often. Much of the Back Cove neighborhood was built up from below sea level, as were parts of the Old Port. The good news is the future’s swimming commuters will backstroke through warmer ocean water (by about two degrees) conveniently devoid of lobster, other shellfish, and coldwater fish, which will have migrated north. The bad news? Frequent flooding can cripple important coastal-wetland ecosystems, contaminate well water, and cause outbreaks of parasitic infections like giardia and cryptosporidiosis.

3. We’ll Learn to Love Our Furry Friends. As Maine’s temps rise and vegetation increases, rodent and pest populations will likely rise as well, bringing with them diseases like Lyme Disease, West Nile Virus, and Eastern Equine Encephalitis.

4. We’ll Breathe (Not So) Easy. Expect warming temps to add to southern Maine’s already dicey air quality, as heat waves with temperatures in the 90s and 100s happen more frequently and last longer. Concentrations of ozone, which makes up a big part of smog, could increase by four percent. More of our descendants will likely suffer from asthma, compromised lung function, respiratory inflammation, and allergies.

5. We’ll Hate the Snowball Effect. Cross-country skiing in Maine will be a thing of the past when ice storms, not snow storms, become the winter norm by 2100. (Downhill ski resorts will likely survive thanks to snowmaking.) To add insult to injury, because the bare ground absorbs much of the solar radiation the white stuff used to reflect, Maine’s snow-free climate may make temps here climb faster than the global average.

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