This is part of IEEE Spectrum’s special report: Critical Challenges 2002: Technology Takes On The government of Tuvalu, a Pacific Island nation, made a plea last summer for countries to take in Tuvalu evacuees, fearing a rising sea level will ultimately sink the country. New Zealand is considering the request. Lowland flooding and salt-water intrusion into drinking water are already happening. Researchers at Iowa State University have started work on corn hybrids that would thrive in significantly different growing conditions from those common today, including different temperatures, hours of daylight, and precipitation levels. The Alaska Department of Transportation is testing ways of preserving permafrost under roads to prevent the sudden formation of sinkholes. One idea, painting highways white to reflect the sun’s heat, failed because drivers had trouble with the glare. These efforts are not unrelated, but are signs of preparations being made to deal with the increase in global mean temperatures expected by the end of the century, a change of 1.4 ° to 5.8 °C from 1990, that will have impacts in the lifetimes of current generations. (By comparison, the difference between global mean temperatures today and during the Ice Age some 20 000 years ago is roughly… Read full this story
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