2023 CEQ Annual Report

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. 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, average temperatures in Connecticut could increase by 5˚F (2.7˚C) by 2050 compared to the 1970-1999 baseline in Connecticut. 

Degree Days: Degree days are defined as the number of degrees by which the average daily temperature is higher than 65°F (cooling degree days) or lower than 65°F (heating degree days). Growing degree days (GDD) are a temperature derived index used to correlate with the amount of heat available for the growth of plants, insects, and disease organisms.

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 can pick up pollutants from the landscape and carry them to nearby rivers and other waterways, potentially 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 possibility of water scarcity 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 carbon-based, climate warming could be exacerbated.

Farmland: Climate change may benefit some plants by lengthening growing seasons. However, other effects of a warmer climate, such as less carbon sequestration in the soil, more pests, droughts, flooding, less predictable weather patterns, and changes in ground-level ozone concentrations will not be 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 that might inflict higher mortality during the breeding seasons.

Good Air Days: The number of days with good air is related to a number of factors, including ambient air temperature, concentrations of air emissions, weather patterns, etc. For each pollutant an AQI value of 100 generally corresponds to an ambient air concentration that equals the level of the short-term national ambient air quality standard for protection of public health. AQI values at or below 100 are generally thought of as satisfactory, while AQI values above 100 indicate air quality that is unhealthful.

Invasions: Climate change 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.

Lobsters: Climate change is increasing the water temperature of Long Island Sound. Water temperature is believed to have had a significant impact on lobster's health and ecology (e.g., recruitment, behavior and distribution).

Nature-based solutions: Nature based solutions include sustainable planning, design, environmental management and engineering practices that weave natural features or processes into the built environment to promote adaptation and resilience. These solutions use natural features and processes to combat climate change, reduce flood risk, improve water quality, restore and protect wetlands, and reduce urban heat.

Piping PloversCoastal-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 piping plovers and 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. Land conservation can help to reduce the impacts of climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide.

Renewable Energy: 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 technologies do not release any emissions as they generate electricity.

Rivers and StreamsRivers 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; while frequent droughts, enhanced evaporation, and decreases in overall annual rainfall would result in reduced water levels in streams, rivers, and lakes.

Source Water Protection: Protecting watershed land and the sources of drinking water involves the proactive planning, management and protection of water resources. This includes safeguarding the quality and availability of surface water (such as rivers, lakes, and reservoirs) and groundwater (such as wells and aquifers) to ensure the long-term health and safety of public and private water supplies.

Swimming, Clamming and Oystering:
 As the atmosphere warms, changes to the amount, timing, distribution, and intensity of precipitation will continue. As more intense precipitation leads to increased runoff, more pollution is washed into waterways, including sediments, nitrogen from fertilizers, pathogens and pesticides, which affects water quality. 

Transportation - Driving and Riding: Combustion of fossil fuels, such as gasoline and diesel, releases GHG emissions 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 occurring 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 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 the geographic expansion of hypoxic environments. In general, warmer water holds less dissolved oxygen, which is required for a waterbody to support aquatic life, 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.

WetlandsWetlands play a role in our ability to manage risks from climate change. Wetlands are an important sink for GHG, 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.