Global Climate’s Impact on U.S. : Summary of Report Findings

Now for something a little more… serious.

The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP)–an initiative mandated by Congress in 1989–coordinates and integrates federal research on changes in the global environment and their implications for society. On June 16, 2009, they released the most comprehensive, authoritative report on Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States. This report presents, in plain language, the science and impacts of climate change on the United States, now and in the future. It focuses on climate change impacts on U.S. regions and various aspects of society and the economy such as energy, water, agriculture, and health. A comprehensive series of web-pages were developed that highlight the findings and major conclusions of the report and contain complete downloadable files of the report, as well as a host of additional content on climate change impacts on the U.S

Here is a summary of the key findings:

1. Global warming is unequivocal and primarily human-induced.

Global temperature has increased over the past 50 years. This observed increase is due primarily to human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gases.

2. Climate changes are underway in the United States and are projected to grow.

Climate-related changes are already observed in the United States and its coastal waters. These include increases in heavy downpours, rising temperature and sea level, rapidly retreating glaciers, thawing permafrost, lengthening growing seasons, lengthening ice-free seasons in the ocean and on lakes and rivers, earlier snow melt, and alterations in river flows. These changes are projected to grow.

3. Widespread climate-related impacts are occurring now and are expected to increase.

Climate changes are already affecting water, energy, transportation,agriculture, ecosystems, and health. These impacts are different fromregion to region and will grow under projected climate change.

4. Climate change will stress water resources.

Water is an issue in every region, but the nature of the potential impacts varies. Drought, related to reduced precipitation, increased evaporation, and increased water loss from plants, is an important issue in many regions, especially in the West. Floods and water quality problems are likely to be amplified by climate change in most regions. Declines in mountain snowpack are important in the West and Alaska where snowpack provides vital natural water storage.

5. Crop and livestock production will be increasingly challenged.

Agriculture is considered one of the sectors most adaptable to changes in climate. However, increased heat, pests, water stress, diseases, and weather extremes will pose adaptation challenges for crop and livestock production.

6. Coastal areas are at increasing risk from sea-level rise and storm surge.

Sea-level rise and storm surge place many U.S. coastal areas at increasing risk of erosion and flooding, especially along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, Pacific Islands, and parts of Alaska. Energy and transportation infrastructure and other property in coastal areas are very likely to be adversely affected.

7. Threats to human health will increase.

Health impacts of climate change are related to heat stress, waterborne diseases, poor air quality, extreme weather events, and diseases transmitted by insects and rodents. Robust public health infrastructure can reduce the potential for negative impacts.

8. Climate change will interact with many social and environmental stresses.

Climate change will combine with pollution, population growth, overuse of resources, urbanization, and other social, economic, and environmental stresses to create larger impacts than from any of these factors alone.

9. Thresholds will be crossed, leading to large changes in climate and ecosystems.

There are a variety of thresholds in the climate system and ecosystems.These thresholds determine, for example, the presence of sea ice and permafrost, and the survival of species, from fish to insect pests,with implications for society. With further climate change, the crossing of additional thresholds is expected.

10. Future climate change and its impacts depend on choices made today.

The amount and rate of future climate change depend primarily oncurrent and future human-caused emissions of heat-trapping gases andairborne particles. Responses involve reducing emissions to limitfuture warming, and adapting to the changes that are unavoidable.

You can view the full report on the USGCRP website, which includes a downloadable report, climate change impacts by region, brochures, fact sheets,  adaptation choices. They even provide “what ifs”— sketches of future conditions (or alternative sets of futureconditions), used as inputs to exercises of decision making oranalysis. Scenarios are not predictions.

Climate change is real, but the good news is that we have options. I’m optimistic we can come up with the technology to resolve, or at least lessen, the toll it will take on the world.

To help raise awareness and gain support for proactively resolving these real issues, please share this with others!

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