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Study: Global warming could affect quality of life

Put away your sled, get out the inhaler and forget about that lobster pie. A new report by some of the region's top climate scientists forecasts widespread changes in New Englanders' quality of life over the next century if global warming continues at its current pace.

In Boston, more frequent heat waves and a fourfold increase in days with poor air quality could endanger the elderly and children, says the study, the most detailed projection yet of the effects of climate change on the Northeast.

Rising temperatures could harm Massachusetts fisheries, while the state's heat-stressed cows could produce up to 12 percent less milk in the summer if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced. The number of days snow covers the ground each year could decrease by more than half throughout New England by 2100, forcing many winter resorts to close.

''Global warming represents an enormous challenge, but we can meet it if we act swiftly,'' said Peter Frumhoff, director of science and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, which produced the report in collaboration with dozens of climate experts, other scientists and economists. ''Our response to global warming in the next few years will shape the climate our children and grandchildren inherit.''

Average annual temperatures across the Northeast have increased by close to two degrees since 1970--and winter temperatures by more than four degrees--part of a worldwide warming trend. Scientists say the warming is likely due in part to emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from cars and power plants. The pollutants linger in the earth's atmosphere, causing the air to trap more heat.

While previous studies have used climate models to predict regional weather changes in the coming decades, the report marks one of the few times researchers have tried to identify how the warming could affect the economies of specific states.

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