National Climate Assessment: 5 Notes from the US Climate Report


A consequences A rapidly warming climate It will be felt in every corner of America and will only get worse over the next 10 years Continued fossil fuel useAccording to a new report by federal agencies.

The Fifth National Climate AssessmentThe report, mandated by Congress every five years, warned that while global-warming pollution in the U.S. is slowly falling, it isn’t happening fast enough to meet the nation’s goals, or at all. In line with the UN-sanctioned goal of limiting global warming 1.5 degrees Celsius – a limit scientists warn that life on Earth will struggle to cope with.

This year’s estimate reflects the reality that Americans can increasingly see and feel climate impacts in their own communities, said Catherine Hayhoe, a distinguished climate scientist at Texas Tech University and a contributor to the report.

“Climate change affects every aspect of our lives,” Hayhoe told CNN.

Some of the report’s broad conclusions remain painfully familiar: No part of the United States is truly immune from climate disasters; Reducing the use of fossil fuels is critical to reducing the effects, but we are not doing it fast enough; And every part of the warming and leads to more serious implications.

But there are some important new additions: Scientists can now tell More confidence When the climate crisis hits Strong rain storms, hurricanes and wildfires or frequent, prolonged droughts Very severe and the heat is very deadly.

Hilary Swift/The New York Times/Redux

Rick Curtis, right, pumps water out of his basement and onto a muddy street in front of his home in Vermont, Vermont, in July 2023.

This summer alone, the Phoenix area was shot through A record of 31 consecutive days Above 110 degrees, a shocking heat wave was responsible for more than 500 heat-related deaths in Maricopa County in 2023. Fatal year For recorded heat.

In July, it rained heavily Parts of Vermont In deadly floods. Then in August, Maui was destroyed Fast-moving wildfires And Florida’s Gulf Coast was hit by it The second major hurricane In two years.

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President Joe Biden will deliver remarks on Tuesday and is expected to release more than $6 billion in funding to strengthen climate change by “strengthening America’s electricity grid, investing in water infrastructure improvements, reducing flood risk for communities and advancing environmental justice for all.” An administrative official said.

“To create a livable future for ourselves and our children, we need change in the global economy on a scale and scale unprecedented in human history,” White House senior climate adviser John Podesta told reporters.

Here are five notable takeaways from the federal government’s climate report.

The latest report contains important progress “Character Science” – Scientists can show with more certainty How climate change affects extreme eventsFrom heat waves, droughts to cyclones and heavy rain storms.

Climate change will not cause hurricanes or wildfires, but they will become more intense or more frequent.

For example, warmer oceans and air temperatures mean hurricanes strengthen faster and produce more rain when they make landfall. Climate change’s warmer and drier conditions are helping plants and trees become tinderboxes, turning wildfires into megafires that spiral out of control.

“Now thanks to the attribution department, we can make specific reports,” Hayhoe said, adding that the attribution will help pinpoint areas of the city that are now more likely to flood due to the effects of climate change. “The attribution field has advanced significantly in the last five years, and it’s helping people connect the dots.”

Ethan Swope/AP

A building is engulfed in flames as the Highland Fire burns in Aguanga, California, Monday, Oct. 30.

There’s no escaping climate change, Biden administration officials and the report’s scientists insisted, and this summer’s extreme weather was a deadly reminder.

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Some states — including California, Florida, Louisiana and Texas — experience more significant storms and extreme swings in precipitation.

Landlocked states don’t have to adapt to sea-level rise, some — including Appalachian states Kentucky And West Virginia – I have seen devastating floods caused by rainfall.

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States in the north are struggling with an increase in tick-borne diseases, less snow and stronger rainfall.

“There is no place that is not at risk, but some are more or less at risk,” Hayhoe told CNN. “It’s a factor in both the increasingly frequent and severe weather and climate extremes you’re exposed to, as well as how prepared (cities and states) are.”

Climate shocks are more frequent in the economy, the report says A new record this year Number of extreme weather disasters costing at least $1 billion. Disaster experts warned last year that America is only beginning to see the economic fallout from the climate crisis.

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Climate risks Hit the housing market Homeowners insurance rates are skyrocketing. Some insurers have pulled out of high-risk states entirely.

Strong storms can destroy some crops or extreme heat can kill livestock, causing food prices to rise. And in the Southwest, future warmer temperatures could lead to a 25% loss of physical labor capacity for agricultural workers from July to September, the report’s researchers found.

Unlike the world Other top pollutants – China and India – Global warming pollution is decreasing in America. But the report explains that this is not happening fast enough to stabilize the planet’s warming or meet America’s international climate commitments.

The country’s annual greenhouse gas emissions fell by 12% between 2005 and 2019, driven by the power sector’s shift away from coal to renewable energy and methane gas. .

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The decline is good news for the climate crisis, but look at the fine print and the picture.

The report found that US global-warming emissions are “substantial” and would need to decline by a drastic 6% annually on average to comply with the international 1.5-degree target. To put that reduction in perspective, U.S. emissions fell by less than 1% per year between 2005 and 2019—a small annual drop.

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Workers install steel shoring where submarine cables come ashore for the Vineyard Wind Project in Barnstable, Massachusetts, in October 2022.

Water — too much and not enough — is a big problem for America

One of the report’s largest studies focuses on the precarious future of water in the U.S. and how parts of the country face a future with severe droughts and water insecurity or more flooding and sea-level rise.

Drought and reduced snowfall pose a major threat to southwestern communities in particular. The Southwest chapter of the report, by Arizona State University climate scientist Dave White, found the region was significantly drier from 1991 to 2020 than it was three decades earlier.

That’s an ominous sign as the planet continues to warm, White said Significant threats to snowfall California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Rockies—both provide important freshwater supplies in the West.

White added that freshwater scarcity in the region also has significant economic and agricultural implications, as it supports cities, farms and Native American tribes.

“The mountains are our natural reservoirs in the region,” White told CNN. “The climate impacts on those mountain snowpacks have really significant negative effects on the way our infrastructure works. Protecting those resources is very important to us.”

CNN’s Donald Judd contributed to this report.

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