Recently, scientists released the fourth National Climate Assessment, which summarizes the various impacts of climate change on the United States now and well into the future. Produced by a team of more than 300 experts guided by a 60-member Federal Advisory Committee, this report was extensively reviewed by experts and the public including federal agencies and a panel of the National Academy of Sciences. If you have some time, you can read the full 1,600 page report, but if you would rather read a much shorter summary and how you can help the planet, read on.
Here are the twelve pillars that compiled this year's National Climate Assessment:
Actions to Reduce Risk
Although businesses, companies, communities, corporations and governments are working to reduce the risks associated with climate change (i.e. lowering greenhouse gases and implementing adaptation strategies), these alone are not enough to avoid the substantial damage that is expected to impact the economy, environment and human health over the next coming decades.
Climate change presents a number of challenges to enhancing and sustaining crop productivity, livestock health and the economic vitality of rural communities. While some parts of the country may see more conducive growing conditions with increased temperatures, yields from major U.S. crops are expected to significantly decrease. In fact, increasing temperatures in the Midwest will be the largest contributing factor to declines in the productivity of U.S. agriculture.
Communities across the country are already feeling the effects of climate change (i.e. California wildfires). These frequent and intense extreme weather events are expected to continue there by causing further damage to communities, ecosystems, infrastructures and social systems. Unfortunately, lower income and marginalized communities are expected to experience the greatest impacts of these events as they have a lower capacity to prepare and cope with extreme weather and climate-related events.
Regional economies and industries, both of which depend on favorable climate conditions and various natural resources (i.e. agriculture, fisheries and tourism) are vulnerable to the growing impact of climate change. "Rising temperatures are expected to reduce the efficiency of power generation, while increasing energy demands will result in higher electricity costs."
Ecosystems and Services
The substantial benefits provided by ecosystems and the environment (i.e. clean air and water, crop pollination, cultural identities, fishing, hunting, protection from coastal flooding, tourism, wood and fiber) will continue to be degraded. The frequency of wildfires will continue to increase as well as disease outbreaks from insects and other pests. This will ultimately decrease the ability of the U.S. forests to support economic activity, recreation and subsistence activities.
Higher air and water temperatures are expected to increase the exposure to food-borne and water-borne diseases, which will affect food and water safety. Other health impacts that are expected to occur include:
- A decrease in cold-related deaths with an increase in heat-related deaths
- An increase in frequency and severity of allergic reactions including asthma and hay fever
- Disease-carrying insects are expected to increase (i.e. ticks and Lyme disease as well as mosquitoes that transmit dengue, West Nile Virus and Zika Virus).
The impact of climate change on coastal areas, land, water and other natural resources are expected to disrupt the livelihood of Indigenous people as well as economies like agriculture, agroforestry, fishing, recreation and tourism. This will ultimately have a negative impact on both physical and mental health to indigenous peoples.
Changes to average precipitation and temperatures, coastal flooding, extreme heat, heavy precipitation, wildfires and other extreme weather events will continue to impact the country's infrastructure. Without any adaptation to these changes in climate, our nation's infrastructure will continue to decline, which will ultimately impact and threaten our economy, essential services, health, national security and overall well-being of the population.
Extreme weather and climate-related impacts will alter critical interconnected systems such as energy and transportation, food production and distribution, international trade, public health, national security and water resources. If one system is impacted, which it will be, the rest will eventually be affected as well.
Oceans and Coasts
Coastal communities and ecosystems that support them are anticipated to be the greatest impacted by climate change. If these projected climate changes continue, oceans and marine species are at risk, which will decrease the productivity of certain fisheries and threaten the communities that rely on these marine ecosystems for their livelihood and recreation with particular impact on fishing communities.
Tourism and Recreation
Extreme climate change poses a risk to seasonal outdoor activities and economies in communities across the country, especially those areas centered around coral reef recreation, winter recreation and inland water-based recreation. Subsequently, this will impact the well-being and livelihood of the people who make a living supporting these economies.
Future warming temperatures will add to the stress of our current water supplies and will adversely impact the availability of water in parts of the United States. We are currently experiencing higher air and water temperatures, while changes in precipitation are intensifying droughts, increasing heavy downpours, reducing snowpack and causing declines in surface water quality. Depending on the geographical regions, various impacts will ensue.
What You Can Do
Although this news may seem grim, don't lose hope! You can still help improve the condition of our planet. Here are a few ideas on how you can help preserve and protect Mother Earth:
- Support brands, businesses and companies who practice sustainability
- Live a low-waste lifestyle or better yet, a no-waste lifestyle!
- Reduce your use of plastic.
- Adapt more of a plant-based lifestyle while consuming fewer animal products, especially meat
- Shop at zero waste stores like Verde Market.
- Spread the word and inform others on the impact of climate change.
We only have one planet to call home, so treat it well by making these small changes. They may be small, but when practiced on a daily basis, they can really add up and can ultimately create a larger, more positive impact on our planet as a whole.
To learn more, visit globalchange.gov