We are all aware that the global temperature is rising in response to greenhouse gas emissions and human activity. However, it is hard to imagine the specific effects of these environmental changes without an attempt to predict what will happen to local regions that we call home.
In a recent study in PLoS One, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and leading academic institutions developed a series of models to project the effect of climate change 100 years into the future in California's Bay Delta region. The goal of this study was to identify the local impact of climate change on increase in the water level and in coastal flooding and on the native species. Some of the indicators in their model included salinity and sea level and snowmelt contribution to runoff.
The researchers tested their model under two scenarios: one in which the rate of warming is moderate and the other in which the rate of warming is fast. The study is impressive for the level of detail incorporated in the model and the predictions made from the model. The authors conclude that irrespective of the impact of global warming, some changes to the region are inevitable -- the challenges of meeting California's water needs will increase and the ecosystem and species diversity will change. As a matter of course, all modeling efforts involve a certain degree of uncertainty and the same holds here as well.
However, there is unanimous agreement that global warming and climate change will have an impact on local communities. The results from this study are relevant to the California Bay Area, but there is no reason to believe that the same model may not apply elsewhere in the world. We can use the projections from this model to drive our future choices and lifestyles.