Climate change is one of the biggest threats facing the planet, if not on the biggest threat. So much so that the World Economic Forum warned that we were "crashed in a crash".
The planet is already beginning to experience some of the effects of this change, from Australia's record-breaking heat waves to the number of extreme weather events in the United States. Still, it may be extremely difficult to imagine something as seemingly abstract, as climate change will affect us in the future – and this is where Matt Fitzpatrick of the University of Maryland's Ecology Center steps.
Fitzpatrick and his colleague, Robert R. Dan, have built an interactive map combining 540 urban areas in the United States and Canada with cities and towns whose modern climate is a reflection of what they can expect to see in the future. The aim of the map and its accompanying study, published in Nature Communications, is to raise awareness of the very real, very tangible effects of climate change on the 250 million people living in urban centers in North America.
Attention: the result is quite worrying.
"We show that the climate of most urban areas will shrink considerably and become either closer to the modern climate of hundreds of miles, and mainly to the south or there will be no modern equivalent," the survey authors explain.
The map examines two options: one that nothing is done to curb our appetite for fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase and two, something is done to mitigate the peak of climate change and emissions in 2040 before falling. If we continue the first time, the authors think, the climate of an ordinary North American city or city will look like that of 850 miles (530 miles) south.
So, by 2080, Washington's climate will look similar to Greenwich, Mississippi, in the unlimited scenario. Alternatively, it may look like Paraguld, Arkansas in the mitigated scenario. In New York, it's Jonesboro, Arkansas (endless scenario), or Annapolis, Maryland (a mock scenario). While in Los Angeles, it is Las Palmas, Mexico (unlimited scenario) or practically unchanged (mitigated scenario).
To create the map, Fitzpatrick and Dunne have gathered information from climate change data sets, including one looking at current climatic conditions, the second one looking at climate forecasting, and one third measuring historical climate variability. They also used a total of 27 different terrestrial models to calculate the average temperature change for each of the 540 urban areas (530 in the US and 10 in Canada).
"In the life of children living today, the climate of many regions is expected to change from acquaintances to conditions unlike those experienced at the same place by their parents, grandparents, or perhaps every generation in millennia "the study authors added.
"While scientists are very concerned about the expected severe consequences of climate change, the same is not necessarily for the general public."
They hope this will change that.