Every region of the United States--from the East Coast to the West Coast, plus Alaska and Hawaii--is experiencing significant, adverse impacts from climate change including droughts, floods, heat waves and wildfires--and these widespread impacts will grow during the course of the century, concludes a major new report issued today by the White House.
According to the report "Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States," climate change is already having a direct and negative effect on the American people, impacting water, energy, transportation, agriculture, ecosystems, and health all across the nation.
The report was issued by the U.S. Global Change Research Program (GCRP) as the result of research initiated during the Bush Administration. It was produced under the leadership of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) by a consortium of experts from 13 U.S. government science agencies and from several major universities and research institutes.
NOAA said in a release that the report is not intended to direct policy makers to take any one approach over another to mitigate climate change or adapt to it. But it emphasizes that the choices we make now will determine the severity of climate change impacts in the future.
“This new report integrates the most up-to-date scientific findings into a comprehensive picture of the ongoing as well as expected future impacts of heat-trapping pollution on the climate experienced by Americans, region by region and sector by sector,” said John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “It tells us why remedial action is needed sooner rather than later, as well as showing why that action must include both global emissions reductions to reduce the extent of climate change and local adaptation measures to reduce the damage from the changes that are no longer avoidable.”
The 190-page report, which confirms previous evidence that global temperature increases in recent decades have been primarily human-induced, incorporates the latest information on rising temperatures and sea levels; increases in extreme weather events; and other climate-related phenomena.
Observed changes are detailed in the report, broken down by nine regions: Southeast, Northeast, Midwest, Great Plains, Southwest, Northwest, Alaska, Islands, and Coasts.
By breaking out results in terms of region and economic sector, NOAA said the report provides a valuable tool not just for policymakers but for all Americans who will be affected by these trends, including farmers making crop and livestock decisions; local officials thinking about zoning decisions; public health officials developing ways to lessen the impacts of heat waves throughout the country; water resource officials considering development plans; and business owners as they consider business and investment decisions.
Key impacts include:
Water--The report finds that nearly every region of the country has experienced water-related impacts in the form of floods and water quality issues, while noting that some areas, namely the Southeast and West, are also suffering from droughts of increasing severity and frequency. Additionally, the report notes declining mountain snowpack, a primary source of freshwater in the West and in Alaska.
Agriculture--Weather extremes, pests, diseases and warmer temperatures pose challenges for agriculture.
Risks to Coastal Areas--U.S. coastal communities face erosion and flooding due to rising sea levels and greater storm surges. The report notes that the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, Hawaii and Alaska are particularly at risk, as is critical transportation and energy infrastructure.
Human Health--Heat, poor air quality, diseases and severe weather events threaten all areas of the country.
Environmental Impacts--Climate change is stressing fragile ecosystems and threatened animal and plant species. According to the report, some ecosystems have already been stressed beyond tipping points. It notes that the increasing loss of ecosystems will impact resource-based services on which human society depends.
World Wildlife Fund officials said the report provides compelling evidence that the nation is already paying a significant price for failing to take action in the past.
“This is the clearest of wake up calls—climate change is here and the time for action is now,” said WWF President and CEO Carter Roberts. “As Congress debates landmark legislation to solve our energy and climate crisis, this report provides conclusive evidence that our planet is already changing before our very eyes, with enormous implications for our nation’s economic future and way of life. Already Americans are paying the price for the lack of action on climate change in the past and those costs will only rise. It’s time for Congress to act. ”
The report is available at the link below.