The 2013 draft of the U.S. National Climate Assessment reaffirms what increasing numbers of Americans have seen in their backyards and hometowns: climate change is real, and without action it will drastically alter the American way of life. Since the last assessment in 2009, climate impacts have gone from a seemingly abstract notion to a daily concern that hits close to home.
According to the Assessment’s Letter to the American People, “Many more impacts of human-caused climate change have now been observed. Corn producers in Iowa, oyster growers in Washington state, and maple syrup producers in Vermont have observed changes in their local climate that are outside of their experience. So, too, have coastal planners from Florida to Maine, water managers in the arid Southwest and parts of the Southeast, and Native Americans on tribal lands across the nation. Americans are noticing changes all around them.”
Additionally, the costs of inaction are being felt now, burdening the budgets of the U.S. government and American families. Over the past 30 years, the U.S. experienced hundreds of billion dollar weather disasters – in fact, states in the southeast have seen upwards of 40 such disasters. Heat waves and altered growing seasons are putting stress on crops, lowering agricultural yields and raising food prices for Americans already struggling with difficult economic times.
Even if there is uncertainty in how severe climate change impacts will be in the future, it should not prevent bold climate action now. The Assessment delineates potential climate impacts in both high and low emissions scenarios. Despite the dramatic range of impacts, one thing is clear: action to reduce and delay such impacts through mitigation is needed immediately, and Americans must invest in measures to prepare for and adapt to the consequences of this ‘new normal.’
The Assessment is a report commissioned by the Global Change Research Act of 1990, and overseen by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, a 13-agency working group. It is authored by an advisory committee of 60 scientists and experts known as the National Climate Assessment Development Advisory Committee. The version released on January 11th is still in draft form, and the authors will be taking public comments for 90 days before releasing a final version for publication.
The Assessment is the latest in a long list of influential reports to underscore the severity of climate change and the urgent need to change current policies to stay within 2 degrees of warming. New research published in Nature Climate Change has also garnered attention for showing that up to 65% of climate impacts can be avoided if action is taken by 2016 to begin reducing global emissions. Last week, NOAA announced that 2012 was the hottest year on record for the United States.
About the AuthorEmily is a graduate of St. Mary's College of Maryland with a B.A. in psychology. While in school, she spent her time leading environmental and social justice campaigns. She recently worked for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network as a grassroots organizer for a moratorium on natural gas fracking in Maryland.
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