finding 20.4 : key-message-20-4

Natural and social systems adapt to the temperatures under which they evolve and operate. Changes to average and extreme temperatures have direct and indirect effects on organisms and strong interactions with hydrological cycles, resulting in a variety of impacts. Continued increases in average temperatures will likely lead to decreases in agricultural productivity, changes in habitats and wildlife distributions, and risks to human health, especially in vulnerable populations. As maximum and minimum temperatures increase, there are likely to be fewer cool nights and more frequent hot days, which will likely affect the quality of life in the U.S. Caribbean. (High Confidence)

This finding is from chapter 20 of Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States: The Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II.

Process for developing key messages:

The majority of our Key Messages were developed over the course of two separate author meetings. The first occurred March 9–10, 2017, and the second on May 3, 2017. Both meetings were held in San Juan, Puerto Rico; however, people were also able to join remotely from Washington, DC, Raleigh, North Carolina, and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI). In addition, the author team held weekly conference calls and organized separate Key Message calls and meetings to review and draft information that was integral to our chapter. To develop the Key Messages, the team also deliberated with outside experts who are acknowledged as our technical contributors.

Description of evidence base:

In warm tropical areas like Puerto Rico and the USVI, higher summertime temperatures mean more energy is needed to cool buildings and homes, increasing the demand for energy. Heat episodes are becoming more common worldwide, including in tropical regions like the U.S. Caribbean. Higher frequency, duration, and intensity of heat episodes are triggering serious public health issues in San Juan. Heat poses a greater threat to health and well-being in high-density urban areas. Land use and land cover have affected local climate directly and indirectly, facilitating the urban heat island (UHI) effect, with potential effects on heat-related morbidity and mortality among urban populations.

New information and remaining uncertainties:

Warming is evident. A remaining scientific question is how ecological and social systems that have established themselves in a particular location can adapt to higher average temperatures.fd10f97c-39c6-4f3a-8306-aead1a368908 Islands such as Puerto Rico are particularly vulnerable because of heat events associated with changes in both terrestrial and marine conditions. Although there is evidence suggesting that mortality relative to risk increases in San Juan due to extreme heat,cb5c02d3-6e9e-4dc5-8eaa-b87f57030bbf this association is not completely understood on tropical islands like Puerto Rico and the USVI. Addressing such hazards can benefit from new strategies that seek to determine linkages between human health, rapid and synoptic environmental monitoring, and the research that helps improve the forecast of hazardous conditions for particular human population segments or for other organisms.

Assessment of confidence based on evidence:

There is high confidence that increasing temperatures threaten the health and well-being of people living in the U.S. Caribbean, especially in high-density urban areas where the UHI effect places further stress on city populations.

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