chapter  1
24 Pages

Introduction to climate change

Climate change is one of the most important science and societal issues of the 21st century. Although climate change is often perceived as a global issue, impacts can already be observed in both the national and local scales (Pittock, 2009; National Research Council [NRC], 2010). This global trend does not exclude the developed world and rich countries such as the United States. Extreme weather events are increasing in frequency, affecting different regions and sectors throughout the country. Areas are facing climate conditions that have never been experienced before. Among other impacts, ongoing drought and increases in temperatures in the southwest United States have led to an earlier start of, and longer lasting, wildfire season. Prolonged droughts have also increased the competition for limited water resources among people and ecosystems. In other regions such as the Northeast, Midwest, or the Great Plains, weather and climate data show that over the past century, heavy rainfalls, which exceed the capacity of infrastructure systems such as storm drains and sewer systems, have increased. This has led to an uptake in flooding events, land erosion, and landslides (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC], 2013).