Earlier this week, the Obama administration released a new summary report described as “a new science report representing a consensus of 13 agencies developed over a year and half and focused on potential climate change impacts on the United States.”
It’s the most comprehensive report to date on the possible impacts of climate change for everyone across America, and begins an important process of redefining the sort of information we need in order to deal with climate change at national and regional scales. Effectively managing our response to a changing climate falls into two general categories:
1) Implementing measures to limit climate change and therefore avoid many of the impacts discussed in the report. These measures must reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and might include increasing our reliance on clean energy, and developing energy efficient technologies
2) Reducing our vulnerability and increasing our resilience to ongoing climate change in pro-active, community-based ways. Examples of this include such measures as developing more climate-sensitive building codes to keep people out of harm’s way, or planting more drought or heat tolerant crops, for example.
Among the main findings are:
• Heat waves will become more frequent and intense, increasing threats to human health and quality of life.
• Increased heavy downpours will lead to more flooding, waterborne diseases, negative effects on agriculture, and disruptions to energy, water, and transportation systems.
• Rising water temperatures and ocean acidification threaten coral reefs and the rich ecosystems they support. These and other climate-related impacts on coastal and marine ecosystems will have major implications for tourism and fisheries.
• Insect infestations and wildfires are already increasing and are projected to increase further in a warming climate.
See the complete key findings here
NOAA, headed by marine biologist Jane Lubchencho, was the lead agency in compiling the report.
“This report stresses that climate change has immediate and local impacts – it literally affects people in their backyards,” said Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “In keeping with our goals, the information in it is accessible and useful to everyone from city planners and national legislators to citizens who want to better understand what climate change means to them. This is an issue that clearly affects everyone.”
One thing I really like about the report is that it is written in fairly simple language and makes nice use of images and graphics to illustrate the points and issues. The report has one of the few easy to understand climate change scenario graphs available to the public (above). It also highlights who will be affected and who needs information about climate change;
• farmers making crop and livestock decisions, as growing seasons lengthen, insect management becomes more difficult and droughts become more severe
• local officials thinking about zoning decisions, especially along coastal areas
• public health officials developing ways to lessen the impacts of heat waves throughout the country
• water resource officials considering development plans
• business owners as they consider business and investment decisions
The White House has set up a web site with footage from a press conference about the report, links to powerpoint presentations, the report itself, images and graphs, ect. Lots of resources about climate change impacts in user-friendly formats. Very nice.