Earlier this month, a panel of 300 leading scientists released the National Climate Assessment, a summary of the impacts of climate change in the United States. The authors of the report, guided by a 60-member advisory committee comprised of academicians, government officials, corporate executives (including representatives from ConocoPhillips and Chevron), and environmental groups (such as The Nature Conservancy), confirmed that “climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present.”
The report’s findings were aligned with the benchmark study recently issued by the International Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and came as no real surprise to a public that has suffered through season after season of devastating catastrophes resulting from extreme weather events.
According to the report, “climate change is already affecting the American people in far-reaching ways. Certain types of extreme weather events with links to climate change have become more frequent and/or intense, including prolonged periods of heat, heavy downpours, and, in some regions, floods and droughts. In addition, warming is causing sea level to rise and glaciers and Arctic sea ice to melt, and oceans are becoming more acidic as they absorb carbon dioxide. These and other aspects of climate change are disrupting people’s lives and damaging some sectors of our economy.”
The report offered proof that “evidence for climate change abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans,” presenting data on increasing sea levels, water vapor, ocean heat content, and air temperature, and decreasing glaciers, ice sheets, and snow cover.
While short-term benefits such as extended agricultural growing seasons and longer shipping periods were cited, the long-term prognosis was clear: the escalating danger of climate change will significantly and detrimentally affect our economy and quality of life.
Perhaps the most troubling findings contained within the report point to the rate of sea level rise, expected to swell up to 4 feet (posing a major threat to many of our nation’s leading cities, including New York, Boston, Houston, Miami, and New Orleans), and projected temperature increase, predicted to climb ten degrees Fahrenheit (the problems that we’re experiencing now result from a 2 degree temperature increase).
Sustainability advocates claim victory with the report, avowing that it, and the President’s subsequent interviews with reporters and weather forecasters, delivered a personal, powerful, and urgent message about the climate change, reaching a wide swath of people throughout the US who are grappling with its effects—from Northeasterners experiencing a 71% precipitation increase, to Southerners dealing with unprecedented flooding, to Midwesterners coping with extreme temperatures, to Southwesterners facing devastating droughts, to Westerners witnessing the heartbreaking decimation of their precious forests from raging wildfires and vicious pest attacks.