New US Climate Assessment Summarized

November 24, 2018

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Administration has tried to bury the new National Climate Assessment – perhaps an even more significant scientific document, for Americans,  than the recent IPCC report – in that it is the work product of the American government’s own science agencies.

Let’s make sure the Black Friday news dump strategy doesn’t work.

Climate Nexus:

This U.S. federal government report shows that:

  • Human activity, like burning fossil fuels, is the primary cause for the warming temperatures we are undoubtedly experiencing.
  • By the end of this century, fighting climate change will save hundreds of billions of dollars just in public health costs, and save thousands of lives a year.
  • Americans are already paying for climate change as it makes storms more damaging, heat waves more deadly, wildfires more common, allergies worse and some diseases more widespread.
  • The U.S. military, as well as many farmers, businesses, and local communities are already planning for and adapting to climate change.
  • Climate change is a clear and present danger to the health and wealth of the American people.

Topline findings of the report include:

Human activity, primarily burning fossil fuels, is causing climate change. There is no credible alternative to global warming emissions to explain the warming.

  • Global average temperatures have risen 1.8°F (1.0°C) since 1901, predominantly because of human activity, especially the emission of heat-trapping gases.
  • Globally, 16 of the last 17 years are the warmest years on record.
  • Depending on the region, Americans could experience an additional month to two month’s worth of days with maximum temperatures above 100°F (38°C) by 2050, with that severe heat becoming commonplace in the southeast by 2100.

Economic losses from climate change are significant for some sectors of the U.S. economy.

  • In some sectors, losses driven by the impacts of climate change could exceed $100 billion annually by the end of the century.
  • If emissions continue unabated, extreme temperatures could end up costing billions upon billions in lost wages annually by the end of the century, and negatively impact the health of construction, agricultural and other outdoor workers.
  • Many aspects of climate change – including extreme heat, droughts, and floods – will pose risks to the U.S. agricultural sector. In many places, crop yields, as well as crop and grazing land quality, are expected to decline as a result.
  • We may be underestimating our level of risk by failing to account for multiple impacts occurring at once, or not planning for impacts that will span across government borders and sector boundaries.
  • Our aging infrastructure, especially our electric grid, will continue to be stressed by extreme weather events, which is why helping communities on the frontlines of climate impacts to adapt is so crucial.

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Americans are already responding to the climate change impacts of burning fossil fuels.

  • Increased global warming emissions have contributed to the observed increases in Atlantic hurricane activity since 1970.
  • Climate change doubled the area burned by wildfires across the West between 1984 and 2015, relative to what would have burned without warming. Climate change was a greater factor in area burned between 1916 and 2003 than was fire suppression, fire management or non-climate factors.
  • By 2100, annual acreage burned by wildfires could increase by as much as 6 times in some places. The U.S. spends an average of about $1 billion annually to fight wildfires, but spent over $2 billion in 2015 due to extreme drought. Costs exceeded $2 billion in the first 8 months of 2017.
  • The U.S. military is already working to understand the increased risks of security issues resulting from climate change-induced resource shocks (droughts causing crop failure, for example, which can contribute to civil unrest) as well as extreme weather events and direct impacts on military infrastructure, like sea level rise or extreme heat at military bases.

Storm surge and tidal flooding frequency, depth and extent are worsened by sea level rise, presenting a significant risk to America’s trillion-dollar coastal property market.

  • Global sea level has risen about 8-9 inches since 1880, 3 inches of which have come since just 1993. We can expect at least several inches more in the next 15 years, with 1-4 feet very likely by 2100, and as much as 8 feet physically possible by 2100.
  • Sea level rise has already increased the frequency of high tide flooding by a factor of 5 to 10 since the 1960s for some U.S. coastal communities.
  • Climate change is already hurting coastal ecosystems, posing a threat to the fisheries and tourism industries as well as public safety and human health. Continuing coastal impacts will worsen pre-existing social inequities as vulnerable communities reckon with how to adapt.

Every American’s health is at risk from climate change, with the elderly, young, working class and communities of color being particularly vulnerable.

  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions will, by the end of the century, potentially save thousands of lives annually, and generate hundreds of billions of dollars of health-related economic benefits compared to a high emissions scenario.
  • Allergies like hay fever and asthma are likely already becoming more frequent and severe.
  • Warmer temperatures are expected to alter the range of mosquitoes and ticks that carry vector-borne diseases like Zika, West Nile virus, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.
  • Drier conditions in Arizona and California have led to greater growth of the fungus that leads to Valley Fever (coccidioidomycosis) while Cryptococcal infections were strictly tropical before 1999, but have moved northward, with Oregon experiencing 76 cases in 2015.
  • West Nile is projected to double by 2050, with a $1 billion annual price tag.

Transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources will reduce the risks of climate impacts.

  • A certain amount of warming is likely “locked in” so adaptation is still required.
  • The faster we reduce global warming emissions, the less risk we face and the cheaper it will be to adapt.

 

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3 Responses to “New US Climate Assessment Summarized”

  1. indy222 Says:

    1-4 ft of sea level rise? I wish that were true. The amplifying feedbacks pointed out by Hansen and many others on the non-linear breakup of ice, says that’s a very conservative low estimate, and that the evidence is more consistent with a doubling time of ~10 years for the loss rate of ice, leading to “multi-meter” sea level rise. The standard estimate of ECS in most models is still 3C. The new estimates of ECS in a hotter world keep going up, and Mann finds the work of Friedrich et al. 2016 with ECS for past interglacials at ECS=4.9C (and that was at ~280ppm for CO2, not what we’re going to see), together with MacDougall et al’s (2016) permafrost melt carbon release, and higher estimates now from thermokarst degradation…. all argue quantitatively for atmospheric CO2 levels of over 700ppm and temperatures of 6-7C by 2300 even if we continue on our path till 2050 and then instantly end all human CO2 emissions. And most of that rise happens before 2100.
    I believe the peer-reviewed research of good scientists in the quality journals – not “government reports”. Especially from THIS government.

    We may be seeing a new tactic in the psychological war on Truth… issue a report and news articles which at first glance sound foreboding, but in fact the numbers are so mild that anyone looking at them will think that’s not SO bad and we’ll fix things before 2100 while maintaining our not-to-be-questioned political/economic paradigm. You thereby disempower the reactions to denialism, seem to be on the right side of the science, yet in fact accomplish the unshakable goal of the denialists – business as usual for as long as we can get away with it…. until I’ve got my loot and can build my bunker in Alaska and leave the rest of you holding the bag.


  2. […] via New US Climate Assessment Summarized — Climate Denial Crock of the Week […]


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