2020 CEQ Annual Report

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Climate Notes

Climate Notes

This page explains how climate change affects the environmental indicators in this report.

Bald Eagles and Osprey: Climate change affects the survival of bald eagles on multiple levels, according to scientists. As climate change progresses, the National Audubon Society's climate model projects that bald eagles will have just 26 percent of their current summer range by 2080. It is possible that the birds will adapt and reclaim summer terrain as new areas become hospitable, but it isn't known whether the birds will be able to find the food and habitat they need to survive.

Climate Changers: Greenhouse gases (GHG), including carbon dioxide (CO2), from human activities are the most significant drivers of observed climate change since the mid-20th century. Carbon dioxide is generated as a result of the combustion of fossil fuels and to a lesser extent, the clearing of land for agriculture, industry, and other human activities. As described in a recent study released by the Governor’s Council on Climate Change, carbon dioxide is the GHG that represents the greatest warming potential, which has resulted in a temperature increase of 0.9°C between 1980 and 2018 in Connecticut. Warmer temperatures have also resulted in an increase in annual average precipitation.

Drinking Water: Extreme rainfall events lead to more runoff when the soil simply is not able to absorb the precipitation at the rate it is falling. In urban, suburban, and agricultural areas, this runoff will pick up pollutants from the landscape and carry them to nearby rivers and other waterways, ultimately affecting the quality of drinking water. In addition to more intense storms and flooding, more frequent or longer dry spells are also projected in many climate change scenarios, which makes the scarcity of water a concern. 

Electricity at Home and Work: Increases in temperature will likely increase energy demand, as well as change our ability to produce electricity and deliver it reliably. In a warmer climate, more electricity will be used for air conditioning and less natural gas, oil, and wood for heating. To the extent that the increased demand is met by sources that are not zero-carbon, climate warming could be exacerbated. A 2015 paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science examines the "contribution of air conditioning adoption to future energy use under global warming". 

Renewable Energy is one of the most effective tools against climate change. Zero-carbon energy sources provide a tremendous resource for generating clean and sustainable electricity without toxic pollution or global warming emissions. Solar panels, wind turbines, hydroelectric facilities and other zero-emission technologies do not release any emissions as they generate electricity. 

Farmland: The extent of farmland in Connecticut depends greatly on farms' profitability. Climate change may benefit some plants by lengthening growing seasons and increasing carbon sequestration. However, other effects of a warmer climate, such as more pests, droughts, flooding, changes in ground-level ozone concentrations will be less beneficial for agriculture. 

Forest Birds: Climate change affects birds both directly and indirectly. As temperatures warm, some bird species will benefit from milder winters and extended breeding seasons. Others, such as northern birds associated with forest habitats, will likely decline in Connecticut, due in part, to increased competition and increased frequency of droughts and extreme storm events may inflict higher mortality during the breeding seasons.

Good Air Days: The number of days with bad air is related to a number of factors, including ambient air temperature, concentrations of air emissions, weather patterns, etc. Elevated temperatures can directly increase the rate of ground-level ozone formation, which is formed when nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds react in the presence of sunlight and hot weather. 

Invasions: Global warming threatens to increase the extent, frequency, and severity of invasive species. The milder winters and extended spring that comes with climate change are helping invasive species extend their ranges, pushing aside native species and transforming habitats. The removal of temperature or moisture constraints will allow species to move into and successfully invade new areas. Species range shifts will also lead to native species moving out of their current habitat or becoming rarer. This creates ecological space for other species to increase in abundance and become invasive, or for non-native invasive species to move in.  

Lobsters: Climate change is increasing the water temperature of Long Island Sound. Ocean warming due to climate change will act as a likely stressor to the ecosystem’s southern lobster fisheries, which will continue to drive further contraction of lobster habitats into northern areas.

Piping Plovers: Coastal-nesting birds such as the piping plover are among the species most threatened by climate change. Rising sea levels might reduce nesting areas available for many coastal and nesting birds.

Preserved Land and Forests: The climate influences the structure and function of forest ecosystems and plays an essential role in forest health. Forests are sensitive to changes in temperature and precipitation and are greatly affected by fragmentation and land-use change, invasion by nonnative species, forest diseases and insect pests, and extreme weather events. One study by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) states that climate also affects the frequency and severity of many forest disturbances. Land conservation can help to reduce the impacts of climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide from the air.

Rivers and Streams: Rivers and streams are affected greatly by fluctuations in precipitation and evaporation patterns around the world. Warming temperatures are altering the water cycle and shifting precipitation patterns. Changes in the timing and location of precipitation combined with rising levels of water pollution will strain ecosystems and threaten the survival of many fish and wildlife species. An increase in severe storms due to climate change will degrade water quality and increase the risk of catastrophic floods. On the other end of the spectrum, frequent droughts, enhanced evaporation, and decreases in overall annual rainfall result in reduced water levels in streams, rivers, and lakes, which leaves less water to dilute common pollutants. 

Swimming, Clamming and Oystering: As the atmosphere warms, changes to the amount, timing, distribution, and intensity of precipitation will continue. Warmer temperatures increase the rate of evaporation of water into the atmosphere and increase the atmosphere's capacity to hold water. What evaporates will fall as excess precipitation in many regions. As more intense precipitation leads to increased runoff, more pollution is washed into waterways, including sediments, nitrogen from fertilizers, disease pathogens and pesticides. The same factors that affect beaches present problems for shellfish beds.

Transportation - Driving and Riding:
Burning gasoline and diesel releases carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas (GHG) into the atmosphere. Both nationally and in Connecticut, the transportation sector is the greatest contributor of GHG emissions. 

Warming and Rising Waters: Global mean sea level has risen about 8–9 inches (21–24 centimeters) since 1880, with about a third of that coming in just the last two and a half decades. The rising water level is mostly due to a combination of meltwater from glaciers and ice sheets and thermal expansion of seawater as it warms. The Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation (CIRCA) recommended that Connecticut plan for and expect 50 centimeters (20 inches) of sea level rise by 2050 with further increases following that date. 

Waste Diversion: Recycling and waste reduction have many direct benefits; however, the indirect benefits are also significant. Recycling and waste diversion reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that would be created by the production, transport, and disposal of municipal solid waste. Increasing recycling and source reduction has been identified as a key strategy for reducing GHG emissions in Connecticut’s Climate Change Action Plan.

Water of Long Island Sound: Climate change has a variety of direct and indirect effects on ocean ecosystems. Increasing temperatures have the capability to make coastal and marine ecosystems more vulnerable to hypoxic conditions, as well as drive the expansion of hypoxic environments. In general, warmer water holds less dissolved oxygen than colder water. As the estuaries and oceans heat up, less oxygen is held; stratification of the Sound waters intensifies, and deeper waters then lose even more oxygen. Precipitation also is important climate factor that can affect hypoxic rates and expansion. Changes in precipitation patterns affect nutrient and hypoxic dynamics in coastal ecosystems. 

WetlandsWetlands play a role in our ability to manage risks from climate change. Wetlands are an important sink for greenhouse gases, where carbon is stored and prevented from entering the atmosphere. Wetlands provide important functions including: cleaning up polluted water. slowing and storing floodwaters and snow melt, recharging groundwater. and supporting habitat for many different native plant and animal species.