Changes in forest composition may include shifts from the state’s hardwoods, maple, beech and birch, to species better adapted to warmer climate. Replacement species such as Post Oak and Blackjack Oak have little to no commercial value. An additional risk of more frequent and severe forest wildfires will be exacerbated by a hotter, drier climate.
Agricultural crop yield is heavily reliant on temperature, moisture and day-to-day weather and is especially vulnerable to climate change. Major regional shifts will be necessary to continue current production and ensure quality of food commodities. It is predicted that crop production will shift Northward, making adaptation for farmers difficult. Milder winters will increase the presence of weeds, pests, and pathogens previously unable to persist in the Northeast climate. Initial increases in crop growth may be observed in response to elevated levels of atmospheric CO2, but within a short amount of time plants will begin to be adversely affected by high amounts of ground-level ozone. Ground-level ozone is damaging to trees and plants. Overall crop yields are expected to experience a loss of 24-32%.
Livestock production is expected to decline as the cost of feed and ventilation for indoor animals increases, and as limitations to crop production limit forage resources. Increased temperatures may also cause direct stress to animals, causing decreases in growth and production.
An increase in the amount of precipitation received during downpours is expected to increase flooding, increasing damages to infrastructure and causing human health problems, especially in cities where heavy rains can overwhelm drainage systems and water treatment facilities, increasing the likelihood of waterborne diseases and associated heath care costs.
By the year 2100, sea-level is projected to rise approximately 20 inches. The cost of protecting and maintaining Delaware’s coastline and sand replenishment will be an estimated $34- $143 million with a 20 inch rise in sea level. Increases in sea level are projected to cause additional economic damage to property values, including loss of property, destruction of property, and erosion of the coast line and the barrier islands. Rising sea levels also pose a serious risk to transportation agencies, with greater potential for damage to roadways, bridges, railways and other utility systems from more frequent and severe storm events, as well as an increased likelihood of flooding and structural failure in high heat conditions.
As sea levels rise, there is an increased risk for saltwater intrusion into the freshwater drinking supply, which is difficult and costly to repair. The risk of saltwater intrusion is exacerbated by predictions of increasingly frequent and severe storms.