29 May 2008

USDA Sees the Light?

Scientists at the USDA have released a report that says "climate change already has inflicted major damage on large sections of the western United States and predicts impacts will spread to more areas and become more severe."

Here's what they say about arid regions:
  • Extreme Weather: Increased drought, severe rainstorms, and erosion from wind and water, which will help spark desertification across the West's arid lands. "Extreme climate events such as drought may act as triggers to push arid ecosystems experiencing chronic disturbances, such as grazing, past desertification 'tipping points.'"
  • Disappearing Desert Icons: Major losses of signature desert species, such as saguaro cactus and Joshua trees. "Climate change will create physical conditions conducive to wildfire, and the proliferation of exotic grasses will provide fuel, thus causing fire frequencies to increase in a self-reinforcing fashion... the probability of loss of iconic, charismatic mega flora such as saguaro cacti and Joshua trees will be greatly increased."
  • Dwindling Rivers: Rivers and streams will be damaged by a combination of lower water flows, higher water temperatures, silting from erosion and non-native plant invasions. "Riparian ecosystems will likely contract, and in the remainder, aquatic ecosystems will be less tolerant of stress. The combination of increased droughts and floods, land use and land cover change, and human water demand will amplify these impacts and promote sedimentation."
The killer? Temperatures in Utah/Nevada are expected to rise by 9-18 degrees F (versus 2 deg F nationwide). Now that's hot.

Bottom Line: Things are not looking good, and even the USDA admits it. Now all they need to do is end all the stupid USDA programs (e.g., ethanol) that are exacerbating the problems!

H/T to Grist.

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