America must act now to avoid huge climate disruption to US lives and economy: vital new report

Clare Saxon Ghauri
Reading time: 3 minutes
6 May 2014

NEW YORK: Today at the White House the third National Climate Assessment was released, a landmark report detailing the huge impacts of climate change in the US.

Compiled by more than 300 authors, the report covers past and projected impacts to conclude that climate change is already affecting every American region and many sectors of its economy and society, warning urgent action must be taken to curb further disruption.

The report, which the government calls the ‘the most comprehensive, authoritative, transparent scientific report on US climate change impacts ever generated’, is expected to steer US environment and climate policy during President Obama’s next two years in office, as part of his Climate Action Plan.

Outlining the growing body of climate science and increasing climate change-induced extreme weather events affecting communities and businesses across America, authors explain how 'climate change' means more than just hotter weather. For example they outline the large increases in heavy rainfall seen in the Northeast, Midwest and Great Plains between 1958 and 2012, as shown in the report’s graph below.

america rainfall

Importantly, the report points out how these regional impacts are expected to affect America's key sectors economically as well as socially - especially areas such as agriculture, energy, transportationwater, human health, forests and ecosystems - with the estimated costs of flooding alone amounting to US$325 billion by 2100.

But the authors say there is still time to limit the extent of climate change’s damaging impacts: “Using scientific information to prepare for climate changes in advance can provide economic opportunities, and proactively managing the risks can reduce impacts and costs over time.”

In its Response Strategies: Mitigation chapter, the report praised climate polices enacted at federal, state and local levels despite a comprehensive national climate legislation. It also suggests continued clean energy adoption across the nation to lower emissions based on the recent growth of America's low carbon energy sector: "Between 2008 and 2012, there was also a decline in the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted annually from energy use in the United States as a result of a variety of factors, including changes in the economy, the development of new energy production technologies, and various government policies."

Amy Davidsen, US Executive Director, The Climate Group, commented: "Understanding the impacts of climate change at the local level is the essential first step in determining the best ways to respond. The latest National Climate Assessment provides a critical resource for American businesses, policymakers and individuals who want to know how climate change is affecting, and will affect, their communities. And the report shows: the risks are real and they are significant."

A draft version of the report was published in January 2013 but has since been further guided by the Federal Advisory Committee and reviewed extensively by the public and experts including a panel of the National Academy of Sciences and 13 government agencies. It is now available online.

By Clare Saxon

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