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Report: Summer's Signs of Things to Come

PHOTO: Doug Inkley Image by National Wildlife Federation
PHOTO: Doug Inkley Image by National Wildlife Federation
September 21, 2012

CHARLESTON, W. Va. – With the beginning of fall, a look back at West Virginia's weather this summer suggests a lot about climate change and where we could be headed, according to a report from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF).

NWF Senior Scientist Doug Inkley says the drought, heat and storms, including the second-hottest June ever, are just the tip of a fast-melting iceberg.

"We now have a record low amount of ice in the Arctic. We have a record amount of ice melt in Greenland. You put all three of these together, and global warming is extremely apparent."

Inkley says the same conditions are contributing to devastating wildfires, crop damage and an influx of destructive pests – as well as the diseases some carry, such as West Nile virus. NWF points out that the past twelve months are the hottest ever recorded in the United States.

In terms of financial impact, the report notes that the cost of battling wildfires, now about $3 billion a year, has tripled since the 1990s. Inkley says some other situations, such as large fish kills in some states this summer, also lend insight into what wildlife face in the months to come.

"You have thousands of fish dying because the water is simply too warm for them. I think wildlife throughout this coming winter will be stressed, because the productivity of the natural foods they eat is way down because of the drought, and they could easily starve to death."

Inkley says the issue of climate change is collective in nature; we all face the consequences and each of us can participate in the solution.

"It hurts us in our pocketbook, it hurts us in our food sources, and we need to do something about it - and we can, but we need to have the guts, as a nation, to step forward."

The NWF report recommends Congress pass legislation to limit greenhouse gas emissions while spurring clean energy development, such as wind and solar power. See it at nwf.org/ruinedsummer.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV