The US government’s Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) just released its much anticipated Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4) report which provides a detailed look at how climate change will impact the country.
The NCA4 report billed as “the report that the Trump Administration doesn’t want you to see” was released on the Friday after Thanksgiving and buried under Black Friday shopping madness; a season where people are distracted. The timing of its release prompted climate scientists and activists to respond with their own social movement – #ClimateFriday.
Jamie Henn, cofounder of climate activist organisation 350.org tweeted, “The latest National Climate Assessment is a bombshell – no wonder the Trump Administration tried to bury it on the Friday after Thanksgiving.”
— Jamie Henn (@Agent350) November 23, 2018
Former Vice President
“Unbelievably deadly and tragic wildfires rage in the west, hurricanes batter our coasts — and the Trump administration chooses the Friday after Thanksgiving to try and bury this critical U.S. assessment of the climate crisis.
“The President may try to hide the truth, but his own scientists and experts have made it as stark and clear as possible.”
— Al Gore (@algore) November 23, 2018
The NCA4 report, prepared with the support and approval of 13 federal agencies, and with input from hundreds of scientific experts, highlights the climate risks faced by local communities, such as increased wildfires in California to coastal flooding in Southeastern states.
“This report makes it clear that climate change is not some problem in the distant future. It’s happening right now in every part of the country. When people say the wildfires, hurricanes and heat waves they’re experiencing are unlike anything they’ve seen before, there’s a reason for that, and it’s called climate change,” said Brenda Ekwurzel, the Director of Climate Science at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and one of the report authors.
A comprehensive document containing research and expert analysis filling several hundred pages, here are some of the key takeaways of this important climate report:
1. The US will suffer economic impacts if no action is taken
If carbon emissions continue to grow and climate risks such as extreme heat, intense wildfires, rising sea levels and flooding aren’t mitigated, critical American infrastructure and property will be disrupted and damaged, states the report. It will also have an impact on labor productivity and economic growth.
The report specifies that “annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century—more than the current gross domestic product (GDP) of many US states” if climate action isn’t taken.
In response, Dan Lashof, US Director at the World Institute said: “Climate change is already taking a toll on US agriculture, health, tourism, fisheries, energy, transportation, infrastructure, businesses and more. For example, $1 trillion dollars of public infrastructure and private property along the US coastline are at risk due to rising seas, increasing storm surges and tidal flooding.
“No region of the country and no sector of the economy is immune. We must use all tools and pursue all policy levers to turn the tide. The NCA4 report makes it clear that we need a rapid and decisive shift to a low-carbon economy to achieve inclusive, long-term economic prosperity across the United States.”
2. The threat of food insecurity
“Rising temperatures, extreme heat, drought, wildfire on rangelands, and heavy downpours are expected to increasingly disrupt agricultural productivity in the United States.” – Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4) report
As the climate changes, the US agricultural industry can expect to face increasing challenges such as:
- deteriorating soil and water quality,
- heavy rainfalls wiping out crops,
- severe droughts posing a threat to livestock,
- declining crop yields, and
- fertilisers and other pollutants running off into fields, streams and rivers, with a potential to contaminate water supply.
As senior scientist Marcia Delonge writes, “Climate change poses serious health and safety risks to agricultural workers, who are increasingly exposed to extreme heat, which can cause heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and heart attacks, with additional implications for lost wages and livelihoods.
“Combined with declining yields and deteriorating natural resources, these factors will put additional stress on agricultural and rural communities, many of which already experience high levels of poverty, unemployment, and other challenges.”
3. Indigenous people will be disproportionately affected by climate change
Those who will likely bear the brunt of the disastrous impacts of climate change will be vulnerable communities such as low income communities and communities of colour, and the report specifically highlights Indigenous people.
Indigenous people look to the natural environment for identity, and it’s also where they earn their livelihoods. With the climate changing, sectors such as agriculture, fishing and tourism will be adversely affected, subsequently impacting Indigenous communities.
The report also notes that as “climate changes continue, adverse impacts on culturally significant species and resources are expected to result in negative physical and mental health effects.”
This has prompted some communities to take climate action such as developing renewable energy projects on tribal land and with some considering relocation.
Climate change increasingly threatens Indigenous communities’ livelihoods, economies, health, and cultural identities by disrupting interconnected social, physical, and ecological systems.” – Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4) report
4. Climate action now will help to future-proof the country
To future-proof against climate change risk, the report outlines that the US needs to take immediate action to reduce its share of greenhouse gas emissions (since it is one of the world’s biggest emitters, second only to China). The report outlines that the country will need to transition the energy sector away from dirty fossil fuels such as coal, and move towards cleaner options such as natural gas and renewable energy, if it wishes to reduce risks from and costs associated with climate change.
“The tragic Camp Fire in California serves as a stark illustration of how climate change is loading the dice for more extreme events that devastate people, homes and the economy,” Dan Lashof, U.S. Director, World Resources Institute points out.
“We should trust what we’re seeing with our own eyes: more intense wildfires, hurricanes, flooding, and heat waves. This is what climate change looks like and it will become far worse unless we rapidly shift to a low-carbon economy.”'The US climate report was released on the Friday after Thanksgiving and buried under Black Friday shopping madness; a season where people are distracted. The timing of its release prompted climate scientists and activists to respond with #ClimateFriday.'Click To Tweet
NCA4 follows on the heels of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report which provided a detailed picture of the damage climate change is expected to manifest if global warming reaches the Paris Agreement’s acceptable upper limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius and the dangerous limit of 2 degrees Celsius.
While Trump’s own Administration released the report, only time will tell whether the US President will take action on its important findings.
To access the full NCA4 report visit: nca2018.globalchange.gov.
To learn about the physical science underpinning this report, visit Volume 1 here: science2017.globalchange.gov.
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