Government report shows climate change is happening now and impacting entire U.S.
A press conference was held Tuesday to discuss a study prepared by the U.S. Global Change Research Program. Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States is the third study issued since the enactment of a 1990 federal law requiring the research program to report on natural and human-caused effects on the environment every 10 years.
Dr. Thomas Karl, Director of the National Climatic Data Center, discussed these major points:
* Global temperature has increased one and a half degrees over the past 50 years, and are projected to rise another 2 to 11.5ºF, primarily due to human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gases.
* Climate-related changes have been observed globally and in the United States. There is an observed increase in heavy downpours, alterations in river flows, and rise in sea level. "Some of the changes have been faster than previous assessments had suggested."
* Reducing emissions of carbon dioxide would slow the pace of warming over the next century.
The study lays out the effects of global warming on specific U.S. regions and sectors. It shows impacts on infrastructure, agricultural production and food resources specific to each region. The study reveals impacts to human health nationwide, coastal areas like the Gulf, and water resources in the Southwest. Speakers at yesterday's conference highlighted regions such as the Northeast, who's economy relies heavily on maple production. A depletion of maple trees due to climate changes has impacted the Northeast, and maple production will eventually move farther and farther north into Canada. The climate report shows that although the impacts are different from region to region, climate change is impacting all of us, not just the glacier fields of the arctic.
The report also notes that climate change will interact with other anthropogenic and environmental stressors, increasing these impacts. "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."
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Jane Lubchenco’s closing statement was a clear call for action. "I think much of the foot-dragging in addressing climate change is reflective of the perception that climate change is way down the road in the future, and it only affects remote parts of the planet," she said. "This report demonstrates that climate change is happening now, in our own backyards, and it affects the things that people care about."
The need to act now was reiterated by many of the experts and authors. "What we've shown in this assessment is that we do need to act sooner rather than later," said University of Illinois scientist Donald Wuebbles. "We want to avoid the worst of the kind of changes that we looked at."
Despite the bleak forecast, Lubchenco and others stated that "It's not too late to act." The report states that “the amount and rate of future climate change depend primarily on current and future human-caused emissions of heat-trapping gases and airborne particles. Responses involve reducing emissions to limit future warming, and adapting to the changes that are unavoidable."
For a copy of the report visit: http://www.globalchange.gov/publications/reports/scientific-assessments/us-impacts.