Climate change threatens “what Americans value most”. government report
Jade Isle Mobile Home Park is flooded with this aerial view from a drone in St. Cloud. Residents of the community were ordered to voluntarily evacuate due to rising water levels caused by Hurricane Yan.
Paul Hennessy | Light missile |: Getty Images:
The United States must step up efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next three decades as climate change exacerbates disasters and threatens water supplies and public health across the country. draft main report the federal government announced on Monday.
“What Americans value most is at risk,” the authors of the National Climate Assessment wrote in the 1,695-page draft. “Many of the harmful effects that people across the country are already experiencing will worsen as warming increases, and new risks will emerge.”
Over the past 50 years, the US has warmed about 68% faster than the rest of the planet, with temperatures rising by 2.5 degrees (1.4 degrees Celsius) above pre-industrial levels. Land has warmed faster than ocean, higher latitudes have warmed faster than lower latitudes, and the Arctic has warmed the fastest, the report said.
Climate-related disasters cause economic losses through infrastructure damage, disruption of critical services and loss of property value, the report said. The country has averaged about eight billion dollars worth of disasters each year for the past four decades, but that average has dropped to about 18 per year in the last five years.
The report also describes how millions of Americans could be displaced by climate disasters, such as wildfires in the US West and rising sea levels in coastal cities. Climate change is also hurting regional economies, reducing crop yields in the Midwest and disrupting fisheries in Alaska, among other things.
The authors highlighted how a number of climate change disasters have disproportionately burdened US communities with lower carbon footprints.
The ring of Lake Meads whitewash reveals a historic drop in water levels near the Hoover Dam on September 16, 2022 in Boulder City, Nevada.
David McNew |: Getty Images:
“The effects of climate change are felt most acutely by communities that are already burdened, including Indigenous peoples, people of color, and low-income communities,” the authors write. “These frontline communities experience the first and worst impacts of climate change, but are often the least responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.”
The report also called for action.
The country curbed emissions by 12% between 2007 and 2019, thanks to advances in renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar and persistent reductions in coal use. But to meet the Biden administration’s goal of a net-zero economy by 2050, emissions would need to fall by more than 6% each year, the authors write.
“Threats to the people and places we love, our livelihoods and our pastimes can be reduced now through proactive, proven efforts to significantly reduce emissions and adapt to inevitable changes that address existing inequalities across the country.”
The authors noted several actions that have near-term benefits, such as accelerating low-carbon technologies, strengthening public transportation, promoting renewable energy and electric vehicle purchases, and improving crop management. But they warned that many adaptation efforts by states and cities are underfunded and merely “additive” rather than transformative.
A house burns as an oak fire burns through the area near Mariposa, California on July 23, 2022.
Justin Sullivan |: Getty Images:
“The worst effects of climate change can still be avoided or limited by large-scale actions that rapidly decarbonize the economy and prepare communities for the impacts,” the authors write. “Longer-term planning and investment in transformative mitigation and adaptation enable a healthier, fairer and more resilient nation.”
The congressionally mandated report comes as world leaders meet this week at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Egypt to discuss methods and targets for combating climate change.
The full report will be published in 2023 after a period of public comment and peer review. The government is required to publish a National Climate Assessment every four years.
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