The effects of global warming are not limited to metropolitan areas. Reforestation began in Connecticut in the early part of the 20th century as farmland was abandoned and reverted to forests; the change leveled off in the early 1970s. In the early 21st century, about 85 percent of Connecticut's forests are privately owned. Many believe private ownership makes the forests more likely to be sold to developers. Researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service predict that by 2050, more than 60 percent of Connecticut will be urbanized. Development of this magnitute will mean deforestation that will increase the effects of global warming. Surviving forests could change substantially, as the conifers, sugar maples, oaks, and hickories that are left lose the spectacular colors that have made Connecticut autumns famous. In an environmental spiral, species of songbirds could disappear from the state's forests, leaving invasive pests, such as the gypsy moth, to decimate the vegetation.
In the past century, sea level in Connecticut has risen by 8 in. (20 cm.), and the state's current rate is above the global mean. A two-year study of Knell's Island, part of the Charles E. Wheeler Wildlife Sanctuary, reveals an erosion rate of as much as 3.3 ft. (1 m.) annually. Predictions suggest increases of at least 5.1 in. (13 cm.) by 2020, to a minimum of 11.2 in. (28 cm.) by 2080. These increases, and the storm surge increases that would accompany them, place rail lines, roadways, an airport, the University of Bridgeport, the Navy Reserve Center, sewage-disposal plants, and the oil tanks at Johnson Creek at flood risk. Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge, home to the endangered roseate tern, would also be at risk. A large portion of Connecticut's wetlands, already suffering from the effects of development, could disappear.
The scenarios are grim, but Connecticut has begun implementing strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) ranked Connecticut, along with Vermont and California, as tops in the nation in overall energy efficiency. In 2001, Connecticut joined other New England states and provinces in eastern Canada in developing a Climate Action Plan that adopted the Kyoto target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 10 percent below the 1990 base; the group set 2020 as their target date. In 2003, Connecticut became a member of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a cooperative of nine northeastern and mid-Atlantic states committed to a cap-and-trade program covering carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. RGGI requires carbon dioxide emissions to be stabilized by 2015, with a 10 percent reduction by 2019, and, eventually, to achieve sharp reductions in all greenhouse gases.
In 2007, after a two-year period of legislative debate, Connecticut passed an omnibus energy bill that required that RGGI requirements be implemented. The action also extended the state's Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to require utilities to provide at least 20 percent of Connecticut's electricity from clean, renewable sources, such as wind and solar by the year 2020. It also required utilities to purchase all cost-effective energy efficiency and similar measures before expensive and polluting new generation resources, and provided incentives and sales tax exemptions for solar power, efficient furnaces, air conditioners, and cars getting over 40 miles per gallon in fuel efficiency.
Connecticut has also adopted the California Clean Cars tailpipe pollution standards, reducing greenhouse gas emissions from new cars 30 percent by 2016. Other recent measures include major investments in mass transit, a fund established for the preservation of farmland, and the purchase of a fleet of more than 500 alternative-fuel and hybrid state vehicles.
The state also initiated one of the nation's strongest renewable energy standards with the goal of seven percent of electricity coming from clean, renewable sources by 2010.
SEE ALSO: Deforestation; Sea Level, Rising; Transportation.
BIBLIOGRApHY. Connecticut Climate Change, "2005 CT Climate Change Action Plan," www.ctclimatechange. com (cited September 2007); Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, "Connecticut Making Progress Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Says Governor's Steering Committee on Climate Change," www.ct.gov (cited September 2007); Pew Center on Global Climate Change, "State Action Maps," www.pewclimate.org (cited September 2007); Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, www.rggi .org (cited September 2007); Avi Salzman, "Fading Foliage," New York Times (October 16, 2005).
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