The income, health, jobs, and life quality of the residents of Massachusetts stand to be degraded by climate change. This page gives an overview of its main effects on the health, economy, and quality of life in Massachusetts.
Climate change will expand the range of mosquitoes and ticks that spread INFECTIOUS DISEASES like Dengue Fever, West Nile virus, and Lyme disease.
Extreme flooding (the “100 year flood”) is likely to occur ever 1-2 years by 2100; flooding results in HEALTH RISKS fromsewer overflows and hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.
Short-term droughts (usually happening once every two years) could increase in frequency to once per year by 2100. The number of days in Boston with poor and DANGEROUS AIR QUALITY will quadruple due to the increase in days with temperatures exceeding 90°F. Over 615,000 Massachusetts residents already suffer from asthma—they and others with respiratory diseases wil face greater risks as air quality worsens due to rising temperatures.
CROP PRODUCTION ($94 million per year to the Massachusetts economy) will likely have decreased yields due to high summer temperatures. Shorter winters may result in crop failure for certain species, including cranberries (worth $81 million dollars to the Massachusetts economy). Furthermore, rising winter temperatures will result in a northward expansion of agricultural pests and weeds.
The Massachusetts FISHING INDUSTRY supports 83,000 jobs and was worth $10.4 billion in 2003 ($4.4 billion state revenue). Commercial fish and shellfish populations will be damaged by increased salinity and low oxygen levels due to sea level rise, even to the point of extinction for certain species. Rising ocean temperatures will result in fish species shifting their habitat boundaries, which would disrupt current fishing patterns—for instance, lobster (worth $200 million per year in Massachusetts) and cod will not be able to survive in their current and historically-important locations.
The DAIRY INDUSTRY ($44 million in sales and $150 million in value added to the state economy) is already struggling and is likely to be threatened further by rising temperatures—heat stress affecting cows could decrease milk production by up to 12%.
The SKIING AND SNOWMOBILING INDUSTRIES across New England (worth billions of dollars in value) are likely to be eliminated by decreasing snowfall and much shorter snow seasons.
Sea level rise threatens $463 billion worth of assets in Boston alone. It is also likely to destroy beaches and harm the TOURISM INDUSTRY, a sector crucial to local economies—in Gloucester alone, municipal beaches generate over a million dollars per year! It also poses a significant threat to coastal transportation systems (roads, railways, airport runways) and agriculture.
For each .9°F that ocean temperatures rise, HURRICANE activity increases by 40%. Ocean temperatures in the Northeast Atlantic have already increased by 1°F since 1900; climate change is expected to result in up to 8°F of increase. Hurricane Irene cost tens of millions of dollars in Massachusetts alone.
QUALITY OF LIFE
Shorter snow seasons also mean earlier arrival of the spring snow melt—this will stress DRINKING WATER during the dry summer months, a costly situation for taxpayers. By 2050, 42% of Massachusetts counties are expected to face higher water shortage risk.
Increased precipitation will mean greater WATER POLLUTION due to increased runoff, storm-water outfalls, and wastewater system overflows, resulting in public health risks and greater expenses for taxpayers and local governments. Increased precipitation may also increase transportation system expenses by causing rusting of bridge foundations and other infrastructure.
FORESTS support the recreational, tourism, and timber industries as well as playing a key role in watershed protection, soil conservation, and wildlife habitat. The spruce and fir forests in the Berkshires are very vulnerable to climate change, and it is predicted that the maple, beech, and birch forests–famous for their spectacular autumn foliage–could disappear within the century. These changes put pressure on dependent animal species and are expected to decrease the numbers of migratory birds, especially songbirds. They also provide space for invasive species, which are expected to threaten native fish species important to recreational fishing.
Rising sea levels threaten endangered coastal wetlands, and salt marshes have already started to disappear—these ecosystems are some of the most biologically diverse in the world, and are home to many endangered species that cannot migrate. Sea level rise could eliminate them entirely.
Note: This is a modified version of the infpacket which we delivered to legislators in the Massachusetts statehouse while recruiting for the Green Economy Caucus. Information was compiled by the Harvard chapter of SJSF. A copy of the report including citations can be found here.