If the magnitude of global warming is consistent with the mid- or upper-range of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) simulations, serious and damaging societal and ecological impacts are likely to result. Higher latitudes are predicted to see greater temperature increases than lower latitudes, especially during winter and spring.
The IPCC predicts rising sea levels, increased rainfall rates and heavy precipitation events (especially over the higher latitudes) and higher evaporation rates that would accelerate the drying of soils following rain events. With higher sea levels, coastal regions could face increased wind and flood damage, and some models predict an increase the intensity of tropical storms.
Regional and state impacts are harder to predict than large regional or global impacts. Regional models indicate these possible impacts in Florida:
- Sea level rise could lead to flooding of low-lying areas, erosion of beaches, loss of coastal wetlands, intrusion of salt water into water supplies, and increased vulnerability of coastal areas to storms and hurricanes.
- As climate changes, this could cause some plants and animals to go extinct, some to decline or increase in population, and others migrate to areas with more favorable conditions. For example, along the coast, fish that need colder temperatures to survive could migrate north, while more tropical varieties could move up the coast into Florida.
- Diseases and pests with current tropical ranges could invade Florida, as has West Nile virus and Africanized honey bees in Florida’s panhandle.
- Crops and trees that need cooler climates may not grow as well in Florida, while more tropical varieties might do better.
- More severe storms and droughts could affect crop production, pests and growth rates.
Even if global average temperature increases in the year 2100 are in the lower-range of the IPCC scenarios, the models project ongoing increases in temperatures and sea levels well beyond the end of this century. Thus the eventual impacts may be delayed but not avoided.