Friday, November 23, 2018

4th National Climate Assessment: Climate Change Is Human Caused; Flooding, Wildfires, Health Impacts, Infrastructure, Economic Damage Will Increase Without Action

The federal Global Change Research Act of 1990 mandates that the U.S. Global Change Research Program deliver a report to Congress and the President no less than every four years.
The report is required to “1) integrates, evaluates, and interprets the findings of the Program…; 2) analyzes the effects of global change on the natural environment, agriculture, energy production and use, land and water resources, transportation, human health and welfare, human social systems, and biological diversity; and 3) analyzes current trends in global change, both human-induced and natural, and projects major trends for the subsequent 25 to 100 years.”
The Fourth National Climate Assessment released November 23 fulfills that mandate in two volumes-- Volume I is the Climate Science Special Report and Volume II focuses on the human welfare, societal, and environmental elements of climate change and variability for 10 regions and 18 national topics, with particular attention paid to observed and projected risks, impacts, consideration of risk reduction, and implications under different mitigation pathways.
Where possible, NCA4 Volume II provides examples of actions underway in communities across the United States to reduce the risks associated with climate change, increase resilience, and improve livelihoods.
This assessment was written to help inform decision-makers, utility and natural resource managers, public health officials, emergency planners, and other stakeholders by providing a thorough examination of the effects of climate change on the United States.
The Assessment also localizes its findings to regions of the United States, including the Northeast.
Click Here to read both volumes of the 4th National Climate Assessment.
"Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities.
"The impacts of global climate change are already being felt in the United States and are projected to intensify in the future—but the severity of future impacts will depend largely on actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the changes that will occur.
"Climate-related risks will continue to grow without additional action. Decisions made today determine risk exposure for current and future generations and will either broaden or limit options to reduce the negative consequences of climate change.
"While Americans are responding in ways that can bolster resilience and improve livelihoods, neither global efforts to mitigate the causes of climate change nor regional efforts to adapt to the impacts currently approach the scales needed to avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades.
"Observations from around the world show the widespread effects of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations on Earth’s climate.
"High temperature extremes and heavy precipitation events are increasing. Glaciers and snow cover are shrinking, and sea ice is retreating. Seas are warming, rising, and becoming more acidic, and marine species are moving to new locations toward cooler waters.
"Flooding is becoming more frequent along the U.S. coastline. Growing seasons are lengthening, and wildfires are increasing.
"Without more significant global greenhouse gas mitigation and regional adaptation efforts, climate change is expected to cause substantial losses to infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century.
Economic Impacts
"Some aspects of our economy may see slight improvements in a modestly warmer world. However, the continued warming that is projected to occur without significant reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions is expected to cause substantial net damage to the U.S. economy, especially in the absence of increased adaptation efforts.
"The potential for losses in some sectors could reach hundreds of billions of dollars per year by the end of this century.
Ecosystem Impacts
"Climate change has already had observable impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems throughout the United States that are expected to continue. Many species are shifting their ranges, and changes in the timing of important biological events (such as migration and reproduction) are occurring in response to climate change.
Air Quality Worsens
"Changes in temperature and precipitation can increase air quality risks from wildfire and ground-level ozone (smog). Projected increases in wildfire activity due to climate change would further degrade air quality, resulting in increased health risks and impacts on quality of life.
"Climate change is projected to significantly affect human health, the economy, and the environment in the United States, particularly in futures with high greenhouse gas emissions and limited or no adaptation.
“Recent findings reinforce the fact that without substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and regional adaptation efforts, there will be substantial and far-reaching changes over the course of the 21st century with negative consequences for a large majority of sectors, particularly towards the end of the century.
“Many activities within the public and private sectors aim for or have the effect of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, such as the increasing use of natural gas in place of coal or the expansion of wind and solar energy to generate electricity.
“State, local, and tribal government approaches to mitigating greenhouse gas emissions include comprehensive emissions reduction strategies as well as sector- and technology-specific policies
“Market forces and technological change, particularly within the electric power sector, have contributed to a decline in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions over the past decade.
“In 2016, U.S. emissions were at their lowest levels since 1994. Power sector emissions were 25 percent below 2005 levels in 2016, the largest emissions reduction for a sector of the American economy over this time.
“This decline was in large part due to increases in natural gas and renewable energy generation, as well as enhanced energy efficiency standards and programs.
“Recent studies suggest that some of the indirect effects of mitigation actions could significantly reduce—or possibly even completely offset—the potential costs associated with cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
“Beyond reduction of climate pollutants, there are many benefits, often immediate, associated with greenhouse gas emissions reductions, such as improving air quality and public health, reducing crop damages from ozone, and increasing energy independence and security through increased reliance on domestic sources of energy.”
Northeast U.S.
Some key findings in the Assessment about the Northeast, which includes Pennsylvania--
-- Primary Observation: "The seasonality of the Northeast is central to the region’s sense of place and is an important driver of rural economies. Less distinct seasons with milder winter and earlier spring conditions are already altering ecosystems and environments in ways that adversely impact tourism, farming, and forestry. The region’s rural industries and livelihoods are at risk from further changes to forests, wildlife, snowpack, and streamflow."
-- Extreme, Recurring Precipitation Events: "The recent dominant trend in precipitation throughout the Northeast has been towards increases in rainfall intensity, with increases in intensity exceeding those in other regions of the contiguous United States. Urban areas are at risk for large numbers of evacuated and displaced populations and damaged infrastructure due to both extreme precipitation events and recurrent flooding, potentially requiring significant emergency response efforts and consideration of a long-term commitment to rebuilding and adaptation, and/or support for relocation where needed."
-- Exacerbate Aging Infrastructure Problems: "Much of the infrastructure in the Northeast, including drainage and sewer systems, flood and storm protection assets, transportation systems, and power supply, is nearing the end of its planned life expectancy. Climate-related disruptions will only exacerbate existing issues with aging infrastructure."
-- Health: "Changing climate threatens the health and well-being of people in the Northeast through more extreme weather, warmer temperatures, degradation of air and water quality, and sea level rise. These environmental changes are expected to lead to health-related impacts and costs, including additional deaths, emergency room visits and hospitalizations, and a lower quality of life. Health impacts are expected to vary by location, age, current health, and other characteristics of individuals and communities."
Click Here to read the Chapter on the Northeast.
Click Here to read both volumes of the 4th National Climate Assessment.
(Photos: Bloomsburg, Columbia County 2011, Lancaster County flooding 2018.)
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