As part of the Obama Administration’s efforts to highlight the short-term impacts of climate change, the White House has released the National Climate Assessment detailing how climate change will impact various regions of the United States. The Assessment lays out in detailed terms the predicted impacts of climate change throughout the country, and according to some observers, represents the most comprehensive current analysis of the observed and projected consequences of climate change for the U.S. Congress authorized the National Climate Assessment back in 1990, and this assessment is the third published. It presents the strongest link between human emissions and climate change, and spells out how each community will be impacted in one way or another.
The main conclusion of the report is that climate change is already happening across the country, and its impacts will get worse. The Assessment includes specific impacts to each region of the country, such as declining crop and livestock production in agricultural areas due to loss of agricultural land from extreme weather events, and larger and more severe forest fires in the west due to drought and insect infestation.
One of the main purposes of the Assessment is to educate the public that the impacts of climate change are already being felt across the country. Under the Obama Administration’s Climate Action Plan, EPA has already issued a number of far-reaching regulations meant to address climate change; however, the most controversial rules are set to be unveiled in June 2014. Those rules will specify carbon dioxide limits that existing power plants must meet. Critics worry that the rules will cause a spike in domestic energy prices and disrupt the U.S. economy, while proponents argue the rules are a necessary step in addressing the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.
William Hohenstein, The Changing Climate – Third National Climate Assessment, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Magic Valley Times, May 11, 2014
U.S. Global Change Research Program, 2014 National Climate Assessment, http://nca2014.globalchange.gov/report
Philip Pulitzer, EHS Legal Counsel