This press release just in:
A special panel of scientists convened by the U.S. government issued a draft report stating that global warming is already changing America and how Americans live. The 1,146-page draft report details dozens of ways that climate change is already disrupting the health, homes and many aspects of daily life in the United States. The authors write that “climate change, once considered an issue for a distance future, has moved firmly into the present.”
For the Great Plains, key takeways from the draft include:
- Rising temperatures are leading to increased demand for water and energy. In parts of the region, this will constrain development, stress natural resources, and increase competition for water among communities, agriculture, energy production, and ecological needs.
- Changes to crop growth cycles due to warming winters and alterations in the timing and magnitude of rainfall events are already observed; as these trends continue, they will require new agriculture and livestock management practices.
- Landscape fragmentation is increasing, for example, in the context of energy development activities in the northern Great Plains. A highly fragmented landscape will hinder adaptation of species when climate change alters habitat composition and timing of plant development cycles.
- Communities that are already the most vulnerable to weather and climate extremes will be stressed even further by more frequent extreme events occurring within an already highly variable climate system.
- The magnitude of expected changes will exceed those experienced in the last century. Existing adaptation and planning efforts are inadequate to respond to these projected impacts.
Nationally, the report observed hotter weather, rising-seas, heavy downpours, melting glaciers and permafrost, and worsening storms due to climatic changes that have already occurred. These impacts will only continue as temperatures continue to rise.
The report emphasizes that global warming is threat to homes, agriculture and vital infrastructure, including roads, airports, train and subway systems, power plants and water and sewage systems.
Key findings from the draft’s executive summary:
- Global climate is changing, and this is apparent across the US in a wide range of observations. The climate change of the past 50 years is due primarily to human activities, predominantly the burning of fossil fuels.
- Some extreme weather and climate events have increased in recent decades, and there is new and stronger evidence that many of these increases are related to human activities.
- Human-induced climate change is projected to continue and accelerate significantly if emissions of heat-trapping pollution continues to increase.
- Impacts related to climate change are already evident in many sectors and are expected to become increasingly challenging across the nation throughout this century and beyond.
- Climate change threatens human health and well-being in many ways, including impacts from increased extreme weather events, wildfire, decreased air quality, diseases transmitted by insects food and water and threats to mental health.
- Infrastructure across the U.S. is being adversely affected by phenomena associated with climate change, including sea level rise, storm surge, heavy downpours, and extreme heat.
- Reliability of water supplies is being reduced by climate change in a variety of ways that affect ecosystems and livelihoods in many regions, particularly the Southwest, the Great Plains, the Southeast, and the islands of the Caribbean and the Pacific, including the state of Hawai’i.
- Adverse impacts to crops and livestock over the next 100 years are expected. Over the next 25 years or so, the agriculture sector is projected to be relatively resilient, even though there will be increasing disruptions from extreme heat, drought, and heavy downpours. U.S. food security and farm incomes will also depend on how agricultural systems adapt to climate changes in other regions of the world.
- Natural ecosystems are being directly affected by climate change, including changes in biodiversity and location of species. As a result, the capacity of ecosystems to moderate the consequences of disturbances such as droughts, floods, and severe storms is being diminished.
- Life in the oceans is changing as ocean waters become warmer and more acidic.
- Planning for adaptation (to address and prepare for impacts) and mitigation (to reduce emissions) is increasing, but progress with implementation is limited.
The draft report was written by team of 240 scientists and overseen by the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee (NCADAC), a 60-person Federal Advisory Committee.