How Global Warming Is Changing the Landscape of New England

Mountain Day is a favorite tradition among Smith College students in Northampton, Massachusetts. Every year in the early fall semester, classes are canceled, the President of the College hands out apple cider donuts, and the college provides transport for students to go apple picking. This year, apple-picking wasn’t on the agenda. Unprecedented freezes ruined the apple season, and apples were delivered to student housing instead.

Apples are only the tip of the (melting) iceberg regarding climate change in New England. As the climate gets warmer, ski seasons are getting shorter and sales are dropping as a result. The famous lobster and cod people travel north are getting harder to come by as oceans and seas get warmer. Sea shores are eroding (all over the country) contributing to higher sea levels and possible property damage.

“It’s not the number of people, it’s how we live, “ said Dr. Mary Stampone, Associate Professor of Geography at the University of New Hampshire. Since 1958, heavy precipitation from intense storms has increased by 70% and there is 40% more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than in the late 1700s. Some of the unsustainable practices that have contributed to global warming are the use of fossil fuels and resource extraction from countries in the Global South.

Fossil fuels is a literal term as it is made from fossilized plants and decomposing animals. Used to create energies like gas, fossil fuels are responsible for 81% of U.S. energy. Fossil fuels release the greenhouse gasses that are responsible for two degree increase in temperature Massachusetts has experienced over the past 100 years.

The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 gave money to the states to distribute to communities for climate change initiatives. These funds are being used to create infrastructure to address flooding in addition to getting solar power on the power grid so as not to exclude people who don’t own their homes or have the resources for solar panels.

The city of Northampton is currently expanding their department that addresses climate issues.

They have hired Josh Singer to replace Chris Mason, Northampton and Massachusetts’ first energy and sustainability officer. This comes alongside the city’s commitment to make city operations carbon neutral by 2030.

When asked what she wished people knew about climate change, Dr. Stampone said, “We are potentially entering into a climate that is going to be much more difficult to live in, it’s not going to be the end of the world.” As for taking action, she suggested reducing societal dependence on fossil fuels and “start individually and work within your community.”