Flooded railway lines, forest fires, hurricanes and storms are some of the alarming predictions in a draft of a White House climate change report that released last week. The report is part of the President’s broader second-term effort to help America prepare for the effects of warmer temperatures, rising sea levels and the more erratic weather. Some environmental and public health groups hailed this National Climate Assessment calling it a ‘game changer’ in combatting climate change. The report outlines how climate change requires urgent action to counter impacts that touch every corner of the U.S. from oyster growers in Washington to maple syrup producers in Vermont.
The extensive study detailed how consequences of climate change are hitting on several fronts, including health, infrastructure, water supply, agriculture and especially in more frequent severe weather such as floods and droughts. The impacts are also broken down by region – from storm surges in the Northeast to wildfires and water shortages in the south-western U.S. The study states, “Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present.”
The advisory committee behind the report was established by the U.S. Department of Commerce to integrate federal research on environmental change and its implications for society. It made two earlier assessments in 2000, 2009 and an earlier draft, released in January 2013, was reviewed by the National Academies of Sciences and attracted more than 4,000 public comments. Thirteen departments and agencies, from the Agriculture Department to NASA are part of the committee, which also includes academics, businesses, not-for-profit organisations and more than 240 scientists contributed.
Among the key findings in this assessment are that the past decade was the country’s warmest on record and that some extreme weather events have increased in recent years. Plus, that severe weather and other impacts of climate change have also increased the risk of disease transmission, decrease air quality and can increase mental health problems, among other effects. Also featured was an ongoing sea-level rise, which increases the risk of erosion and storm surge damage and raises the stakes for the nearly five million Americans who live within four feet of the local high-tide level.
The U.S. and the world are warming and the global climate is changing. This change is apparent across a wide range of observations. Undeniably, the global warming of the past 50 years is primarily due to human activities. The global climate is projected to continue to change over this century and beyond.
Photo Credit: Global Change.gov