Calling it “the most comprehensive and authoritative report of its kind,” on Tuesday the White House released Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States.
In its 190-pages, the nonpartisan report confirms what many have long argued: climate change due to heat-trapping pollution is already occurring and is visible throughout the United States, and the choices we make now will determine the severity of its impacts in the future. The report was authored by a team of 31 leading climate scientists from the U.S. Global Change Research Program — a consortium of government agencies, major universities and research institutions — and reviewed by hundreds of scientists.
The study was expressly written in non-technical language so that its findings are readily accessible to the public, the media and decision makers from all levels.
A few key findings from the report:
- Global warming is due primarily to human-induced emissions of heat-trapping pollution mainly from the burning of fossil fuels as well as from forest clearing and agricultural activities. Earlier reductions in emissions will have a greater effect in reducing climate change than comparable reductions made later.
- In the United States, climate change is causing increases in temperatures, more heavy downpours, sea-level rise, less snow and ice cover, and other impacts.
- Unless polluting emissions are reduced significantly, heat waves will become more frequent; heavy downpours will cause more severe flooding; and agriculture will be increasingly challenged by insects, diseases and drought.
- Reduced summer water availability will create greater demand for water in some regions, especially in the West.
- Rising water temperatures and ocean acidification threaten coral reefs and diverse ecosystems with major implications for our fish supply, our fishing industry and our coastal communities.
- Local sea-level rise of 3 to 4 feet on top of storm surges will increasingly threaten homes and coastal infrastructure; more of our coastal lands will be lost to rising seas. [emphasis added]
So far, we’ve only had a chance to read through the section on section on coastal areas (PDF) and, to be frank, there’s not a lot new here, but perhaps the real news is that the federal government is taking a hard position on some of these issues.
What do you think? Is this a game changer? Will it, as its press release claims, “provide policy makers and citizens with the science-based evidence they need to inform their climate policy decisions”?