Years of Living Dangerously, the epic series by Showtime that just won an Emmy, takes a panoramic look at the current state of climate change, following celebrities and newscasters around the planet as they take stock of the state of rainforests, oceans and drought-stricken farmland (West Texas is featured).
Wildfire trends in the West are clear: there are more large fires burning now than at any time in the past 40 years and the total area burned each year has also increased.
Climate change will continue to worsen wildfires in the U.S., with the area burned each year expected to double by 2050, according to a report released this week by the USDA’s Forestry Service. But that’s not all. Profound changes are ahead for forests in the Midwest, Southeast and Northeast, as climate change rearranges natural habitats.
If you’re wondering what to worry about in the coming year, look no further than the eco-landscape.
Climate change, species extinctions, ocean acidification, forestry losses, soil erosion and air pollution. We humans, now 7 billion strong, are pushing the planet hard, creating a brew of intractable environmental issues that threaten our way of life, and ultimately our survival.
Grim? It doesn’t get much more so.
There were bright moments in 2011. A sampling:
If global warming wasn’t so devastatingly tangible, it would sound like part of a doomsday cult. Consider these projections of the future for a swath of the U.S.
First up: Kansas, the American heartland, breadbasket to the world, a place of amber waves of grain…a place we might not recognize by century’s end.
Under projected global warming scenarios, Kansas will become hotter and drier, with more insects and more storms during the next several decades. By century’s end, western Kansas will be so arid, it will need 8 more inches of water to sustain crops there. Eastern Kansas will be wetter, but so warm that evaporation will claim the extra rainfall and southwestern Kansas will be a virtual desert. All this according to a report released last week by University of Kansas scientists Nathaniel Brunsell and Johannes Feddema for the Climate Change and Energy Project based in Salina, Kansas.
But wait, Dorothy, there’s more.