Conn. warns of dire climate change consequences

Conn. warns of dire consequences to agriculture, buildings, shoreline from climate change

Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Connecticut environmental officials are warning of dire consequences from climate change that will affect agriculture, dams and levees, waterfront habitats and public health.

For example, sea level rise will leave Hammonasset Beach State Park, among Connecticut's most popular state parks, mostly inundated by sea water by the end of the century, according to a new report by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Most agriculture in Connecticut is likely to be "highly impacted" by climate change "and most of these potential impacts are negative," Monday's report said.

Maple syrup, dairy, warm weather produce, shellfish and apple and pear production will be affected by changes in temperature and the abundance of rain or lack of it, which could reduce production yields, lead to contamination of agricultural goods such as shellfish and the need for costly infrastructure to compensate for the damage.

Climate change is "going to require some adaptation," said Agriculture Commissioner Steven Reviczky.

"You can see what's happening," he said. "The intensity of storms is pretty significant. The damage has been equally significant."

Connecticut was hit by three major storms in 14 months: Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011, followed by a freak nor'easter two months later and Superstorm Sandy in late October 2012. This summer, four tornadoes touched down in Connecticut, with one storm in north-central Connecticut on July 1 damaging tobacco netting and other farm equipment, buildings and crops.

The report said climate changes are projected to be less in the Northeast, particularly for rain and snow, than the rest of the country. Connecticut agriculture as a result can take advantage of the projected longer growing season.

The legislature required the Governor's Steering Committee on Climate Change to evaluate the projected impacts of climate change on agriculture, infrastructure, natural resources and public health and develop strategies to reduce the impacts.

Infrastructure would be most affected by changes in storms and rising sea level, which could cause substantial structural damage. Efforts and technology would be costly to reduce the impact of the damage, the report said.

In addition, natural resources most at risk from climate change are cold water streams, tidal marshes, open water marine areas, beaches and dunes, freshwater wetlands, offshore islands, major rivers and forested swamps.

Cold water streams could become warm, tidal marsh and offshore islands could be submerged and critical species that depend on the habitats could be lost. The damage caused by climate change would join other threats such as development and invasive species.

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