Millennials came of age in hotter, more extreme climate than their predecessors

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Environment America Research & Policy Center

WASHINGTON, DC — Millennials came of age during the hottest ten-year period in the last 100 years. That’s just one of the stats in a new report by Environment America Research & Policy Center showing how young adults are experiencing hotter temperatures and more intense storms than their predecessors did 40 and 50 years ago.

“We used to think global warming would happen someday, but someday is now,” said report co-author Travis Madsen of Environment America. “We’re are already seeing record heat and more extreme weather, and without bold action, the next generation will be left a dangerous inheritance.”

In every state, young adults today are experiencing warmer average temperatures than young adults in the Baby Boomer generation, with temperatures 1.6 degrees higher across the contiguous United States, according to the analysis, Dangerous Inheritance: The Hotter, More Extreme Climate We’re Passing Down to America’s Young.

The temperature increase has contributed to crop loss and dangerous heat waves around the country. The Southwest has already seen reduced snow pack and stream flows, with rippling affects for agriculture, water supply, and tourism.

“The climate change that we are experiencing is going to cause a series of problems that we are not prepared for,” said Jacob Kimiecik, Junior at Colorado State University. “Younger generations, such as mine, will be living in a world with increasingly serious challenges that our economy and infrastructure are not equipped to withstand.”

Extreme superstorms like Sandy and flooding were more common as Millennials and Generation Z entered adulthood, according to the analysis, which showed the biggest rain and snowstorms producing 10 percent more precipitation in 2011 than they did in 1948.  In Midwestern states like Ohio, new generations of farmers have noticed the difference.

“Everything we do is directly impacted by the weather and we are acutely aware of how it is changing. said Chrissie Laymon, owner of a farm in Ohio’s Knox County, about 70 miles northeast of Columbus. Drought, severe storms, increasingly colder winters, cool springs and warmer falls effect everything we do, from sowing seeds to calving.”

Increased storms were particularly pronounced in the Northeast. Maine, for example, saw big storms produce 24% more precipitation in 2011 than when Boomers came of age.

“Four years ago, I became a grandfather and last year I gained another grandson. Suddenly, the future became a lot more real. What sort of world will these little guys be living in when they’re my age?” asked Allen Armstrong, faith leader in Portland.

According to the report, If the United States and the world continue to emit more carbon pollution, by the end of the century, when today’s children will be well into retirement, the temperature will have risen 5-10 °F, greatly increasing the risk of extreme weather.

To avoid increasing average temperature and the dangerous weather scientists predict will come with it, Environment America advocates dramatic cuts in carbon pollution, starting with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, which requires a 30 percent reduction in power plant emissions by 2030.

The plan has garnered widespread support among average citizens, but not in Congress, where the House has voted more than once to scuttle the proposed carbon limits. The U.S. Senate voted last week to encourage states to opt out of the plan, but failed to take up a vote to block it altogether.

“It’s encouraging that some senators are beginning to think twice about blocking climate action, but it’s far from enough,” said Aurilio. “We need all our leaders to back aggressive cuts in carbon pollution, starting with the Clean Power Plan, so that we don’t pass down an even more dangerous climate to the next generation.”