Climate change is the most epic threat our species has ever faced. It’s, a really difficult thing to conceptualize, because even though climate change is touching literally every square inch of this planet, it’s hard to show people how it might be affecting them personally, but what scientists are finding recently is that Maps can help communicate with threat.
We spoke with one of those scientists, Matt Fitzpatrick, who created an interactive map to show what the future climate of cities may be. Click on San Francisco, for example, and you’ll, see that in 2080 its climate will feel closest to present-day Los Angeles.
Chicago will feel more like eastern Kansas and Washington DC will feel more like the middle of Mississippi, so the scientists and a science communicator. What is the biggest challenge you’re facing when communicating climate change to the public one it’s.
It’s, a complex topic, but one of the biggest things is the amount of misinformation out there right people see and read and hear all sorts of things that are presented as facts and they’re. Not and the science is often attacked, even though the science is very robust.
All that collectively is is trying not to speak in abstract terms, trying to speak about personal values, personal experiences, personal stories that people can relate to, and I think that’s. The angle that that this approach, climate analog mapping tries to take so, can you explain to us what this map is and what it is showing? So what the map shows for 540 cities in North America is the current location.
That is most like that. That city’s future climates speaking in terms of a particular city is helpful, so we can take New York City and we can say what location now has a climate like New York’s is expected to be in 2080.
We can do that for two different futures. If you will one future, assuming we don’t put policies in place to change our behaviors and fossil fuel use, so that’s. Kind of a high emission scenario in the second scenario assumes that we address the emissions problem and reduce emissions to look at those two possibilities and understand how addressing change can can help.
If you see any kind of generalizable trends here yeah I mean the strongest consistent patterns were actually about the eastern half of North America, or so so, cities in the East, their closest match in ms all cases, was to the south or Southwest.
If you’re a resident in a city in the East, you would have to drive about 500 miles to the south to find a climate today, like your cities, can experience in 2080. If we think of Eastern cities, we think for seasons.
We think snowy winters, a lot of those cities are moving from those kinds of climates to the more like what we might consider subtropical humid southeastern, deep south us. The West is a little bit more complicated, mainly because of the terrain right there’s.
Mountains and things like that, the weather patterns a little bit more complicated and precipitation tends to be a lot more seasonal in the West right. You get a lot of winter, precipitation and droughts in the summer, but all places in the West are warming up as well.
A lot of the places in the West are becoming more like Southern California, more desert. I think another powerful thing about this map is the implications for things like public health, so in a place like San Francisco, here we have very few residences with air-conditioning because it’s.
Just it’s, a mild climate that will not be the case in the future, where we start looking more and more like Los and just how might a tool like this inform really public health policy going forward into a much warmer world.
I think there are opportunities for people involved in in that area and to look at these maps and say if our city is going to become more like a city in the south. How are they handling heat waves? What do they have to deal with higher temperatures? How do they protect their most vulnerable population during those times? I think another big component of this is water, not just rising temperatures, but the way that rainfall will be changing so places like Los Angeles, is projected to have fewer storms, but those storms will be more intense dumping more water at one time in LA is actually Preparing for that with some catchment systems, but we talked about the importance here of considering climate change, both as a temp change, but also a change in rainfall, a lot of similar work to ours that had been done previously and still being done.
It mainly focused on temperature and we experienced temperature directly right. I mean, of course we get rained on, but it’s easier for us to experience a heatwave than it is a 30 % increase in precipitation, but precipitation is really really important.
For the reasons you mentioned right, we of course rely on fresh water and so places that have built infrastructure and have planned around a certain amount of precipitation falling in a given year. Drastic and changes in that it’s, going to affect a lot of people, so I think it’s really important to bring in the dimension of of rainfall and to incorporate that into the analysis.
Can you talk about what kind of ecological effects we might see in the coming years as the planet warrant? Your climate is a really important determinant to what organisms live where right, so that means plants, insects, animals, what have you and when we start changing the environment and climate starts, changing animals tend to move around to an essence, find their preferred habitat.
You know some of these organisms that are moving around our disease, vectors, more mosquitoes certain species of mosquitoes and certain diseases that they carry are all going to be affected and respond to climate change, and that’s.
Gon na directly affect humans when, when those are vectors of disease and other things like that, so given the enormous scope of climate change, the dire nature of it for the future of the human race, what, as individuals might we be able to do in eliciting change? Well, a couple of things I like to say: we’ve.
We all contribute to the problem, so we can all contribute to the solution. If we look at what contributes to emissions, you transportations a big one. Power generation is a big one. I live in Maryland.
In Maryland, we were able to choose our power supplier, and so we’re able to choose a supplier that purchases renewable energy. So if people live in a state where they have that that ability to pick where their power is coming from, they can switch today, they can switch from so fuel source to renewable sources.
That would have a major impact. What’s? The utility of a map like this and communicating the the really dire consequences of climate change, the climate change is hard for people to not now understand per se, but but maybe to appreciate the the the risk because one, you know we experience a lot of variability And climate daily, weekly seasonally right, we might see a twenty degree, fahrenheit change from night time to the maximum temperature of the day.
But then we hear climate scientists talking about climate change and being worried about. You know four degree change in mean global temperature and it’s like well. You know that doesn’t seem so bad, and – and so I think the utility of this tool is to translate those those abstract global averages that we hear all the time into an actual impact assessment of where people live.
I think it’s powerful for people to see the the magnitude of change that we expect just given relatively small changes in mean global temperature. Okay. Well, thank you very much for joining us. My pleasure man.