Climate Change in the U.S. Northeast: Migrating Climates

Imagine if each state in the U.S. were a giant puzzle piece. By the end of the century, global warming could have the effect of picking up some of those pieces and dropping them several hundred miles to the South. New York, for instance, could wind up with a climate like Georgia's, while Massachusetts would feel like South Carolina. Climate shifts like that could have major consequences for the environment and the economy in the Northeast. But the good news is that these scenarios won't happen if we do something about global warming now.The Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment, a collaboration between the Union of Concerned Scientists and a team of independent scientists across the Northeast and the nation took a look at these "migrating climates" in Climate Change in the U.S. Northeast, released last week. By showing people what global warming will do in their own backyards, the report clearly demonstrates that the future of our climate is at stake today.

The report looked at what would happen if we continued on a business as usual emissions path with a heavy reliance on fossil fuels and if we chose instead a path of reduced emissions, through efficiency and alternative sources of energy. Under the second, lower-emissions path, the state puzzle pieces would still move south, but not nearly as far as the scenarios mentioned above. Instead of Georgia, summers in New York would only wind up feeling like those in Virginia by the end of the century, and Massachusetts would feel like present-day Maryland rather than sweltering South Carolina.

On the bright side, with its history as a leader on air quality issues, the Northeast could be the next place where people take a major stand on global warming. Homes, businesses, power plants, and automobiles all offer opportunities for lowering emissions. It's up to the governments, businesses, and people of the region to decide where the puzzle pieces will go and what kind of Northeast their kids and grandkids will inherit.

For more on how global warming will likely affect the climate and character of the Northeast, visit Climatechoices.org.

For more on policy developments happening in the region, check out a list of how you can take action broken down by state.

If you live outside the Northeast, there are other general action steps everyone can take to fight global warming.