Back in June 2009, the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) released a detailed 188-page report, “Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States,” showing how climate change would affect different regions of the country. The USGCRP is at work on its next assessment right now, which is due out in 2013. But this week a climate-change-denying think tank is trying to muddy the water by releasing what it calls an “addendum” to the USGCRP report.
The Cato Institute, a “free-market” minded think-tank based in DC, plans to release its own “Addendum: Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States” report. In addition to the title, the report’s cover looks like the USGCRP report:
The Daily Climateflagged the fake report on Monday, noting that the addendum “matches the layout and design of the original, published by the U.S. Global Change Research Program: Cover art, ‘key message’ sections, table of contents are all virtually identical, down to the chapter heads, fonts and footnotes.”
Get ready for more extreme weather and increasingly serious impacts on health, the economy and the environment, courtesy global climate change.
The U.S. average temperature has increased by about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1895, with more than 80 percent of the increase occurring since 1980.
Extreme weather and climate events have risen in recent decades, with “new and stronger evidence” that many of these increases are related to human activities.
Climate change impacts already are evident and expected to become “increasingly challenging” across the U.S. through this century and beyond.
Climate change threatens human physical and mental health in many ways due to rising extreme weather events, wildfires, degrading air quality, disease transmitted by insects, food and water.
Wielicki noted that coastal areas are particularly vulnerable because of rising sea levels. Yet, the coastal population is increasing by 1,000,000 people per year. Many of these areas have key infrastructure such as ports, military bases, power plants and tourism.
When did scientists and politicians first start to think that man may be warming the planet through the burning of fossil fuels?
We could begin in the 1820s when Joseph Fourier first suggested that gases in the atmosphere trap some of the sun’s heat like glass in a greenhouse (hence the “greenhouse effect”). We could also begin in the 1860s with John Tyndall measuring the capacity of water vapor and CO2 to trap infrared light (the ground under your feet emits long wavelength infrared radiation after it is warmed by the incoming sunlight which arrives mostly at shorter wavelengths).
It was Tyndall who came up with the potent metaphor of greenhouse gases as a “blanket” covering the Earth.
So through Fourier and Tyndall we could trace the basic elements of the greenhouse effect back almost 200 years. Hardly the stuff of a modern conspiracy. But neither of these researchers suggested that human beings were doing anything to alter the chemistry of the atmosphere. Surely that is a recent invention of the environmentalist age.
The first calculation of the greenhouse effect to include human-driven release of greenhouse gases came about 100 years ago. Using estimates of coal burning, Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius built on other calculations he’d made and estimated that doubling the CO2 content of the planet’s atmosphere would raise it’s temperature by 2.5 to 4.0 degrees Celsius.
In the spring of 2005, Rick resigned from his position to protest the Bush Administration’s political interference with climate change communication. His whistleblower documentation of politically motivated White House editing and censorship of climate science program reports intended for the public and Congress received front-page coverage in the New York Times and was widely reported in the media.
Rick testified before both the House of Representatives and the Senate at hearings on political interference with federal climate scientists.
It should also be noted that George Bush Sr created the world’s first federal level climate change research office in 1990 with the Global Change Research Act of 1990. His son, George Bush Jr., tried to shut it down. See also.
Emerging Consensus Shows Climate Change Already Having Major Effects on Ecosystems and Species
“Plant and animal species are shifting their geographic ranges and the timing of their life events – such as flowering, laying eggs or migrating – at faster rates than researchers documented just a few years ago, according to a technical report on biodiversity and ecosystems used as scientific input for the 2013 Third National Climate Assessment.
The report, Impacts of Climate Change on Biodiversity, Ecosystems, and Ecosystem Services, synthesizes the scientific understanding of the way climate change is affecting ecosystems, ecosystem services and the diversity of species, as well as what strategies might be used by natural resource practitioners to decrease current and future risks. More than 60 federal, academic and other scientists, including the lead authors from the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Wildlife Federation and Arizona State University in Tempe, authored the assessment.
"These geographic range and timing changes are causing cascading effects that extend through ecosystems, bringing together species that haven’t previously interacted and creating mismatches between animals and their food sources,” said Nancy Grimm, a scientist at ASU and a lead author of the report.
Grimm explained that such mismatches in the availability and timing of natural resources can influence species’ survival; for example, if insects emerge well before the arrival of migrating birds that rely on them for food, it can adversely affect bird populations. Earlier thaw and shorter winters can extend growing seasons for insect pests such as bark beetles, having devastating consequences for the way ecosystems are structured and function. This can substantially alter the benefits people derive from ecosystems, such as clean water, wood products and food.
“The impact of climate change on ecosystems has important implications for people and communities,” said Amanda Staudt, a NWF climate scientist and a lead author on the report. “Shifting climate conditions are affecting valuable ecosystem services, such as the role that coastal habitats play in dampening storm surge or the ability of our forests to provide timber and help filter our drinking water.”
Another key finding is the mounting evidence that population declines and increased extinction risks for some plant and animal species can be directly attributed to climate change. The most vulnerable species are those already degraded by other human-caused stressors such as pollution or exploitation, unable to shift their geographic range or timing of key life events, or that have narrow environmental or ecological tolerance. For example, species that must live at high altitudes or live in cold water with a narrow temperature range, such as salmon, face an even greater risk due to climate change.
“The report clearly indicates that as climate change continues to impact ecological systems, a net loss of global species’ diversity, as well as major shifts in the provision of ecosystem services, are quite likely,” said Michelle Staudinger, a lead author of the report and a USGS and University of Missouri scientist.
For example, she added, climate change is already causing shifts in the abundance and geographic range of economically important marine fish. “These changes will almost certainly continue, resulting in some local fisheries declining or disappearing while others may grow and become more valuable if fishing communities can find socially and economically viable ways to adapt to these changes.”
Natural resource managers are already contending with what climate change means for the way they approach conservation. For example, the report stated, land managers are now more focused on the connectivity of protected habitats, which can improve a species’ ability to shift its geographic range to follow optimal conditions for survival.
“The conservation community is grappling with how we manage our natural resources in the face of climate change, so that we can help our ecosystems to continue meeting the needs of both people and wildlife,” said Bruce Stein, a lead author of the report and director of climate adaptation at the National Wildlife Federation.
Other key findings of the report include:
Changes in precipitation and extreme weather events can overwhelm the ability of natural systems to reduce or prevent harm to people from these events. For example, more frequent heavy rainfall events increase the movement of nutrients and pollutants to downstream ecosystems, likely resulting not only in ecosystem change, but also in adverse changes in the quality of drinking water and a greater risk of waterborne-disease outbreaks.
Changes in winter have big and surprising effects on ecosystems and their services. Changes in soil freezing, snow cover and air temperature affect the ability of ecosystems to store carbon, which, in turn, influences agricultural and forest production. Seasonally snow-covered regions are especially susceptible to climate change because small precipitation or temperature shifts can cause large ecosystem changes. Longer growing seasons and warmer winters are already increasing the likelihood of pest outbreaks, leading to tree mortality and more intense, extensive fires. Decreased or unreliable snowfall for winter sports and recreation will likely cause high future economic losses.
The ecosystem services provided by coastal habitats are especially vulnerable to sea-level rise and more severe storms. The Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts are most vulnerable to the loss of coastal protection services provided by wetlands and coral reefs. Along the Pacific coast, long-term dune erosion caused by increasing wave heights is projected to cause problems for communities and for recreational beach activities. However, other kinds of recreation will probably improve due to better weather, with the net effect being that visitors and tourism dollars will shift away from some communities in favor of others.
Climate change adaptation strategies are vital for the conservation of diverse species and effective natural resource policy and management. As moreadaptive management approaches are developed, resource managers can enhance the country’s ability to respond to the impacts of climate change through forward-looking and climate science-informed goals and actions.
Ecological monitoring needs to be improved and better coordinated among federal and state agencies to ensure the impacts of climate change are adequately monitored and to support ecological research, management, assessment and policy. Existing tracking networks in the United States will need to improve coverage through time and in geographic area to detect and track climate-induced shifts in ecosystems and species.
Federal law requires that the U.S. Global Change Research Program submit an assessment of climate change and its impacts to the President and the Congress once every four years. Technical reports, articles and books – such as this report – underpin the corresponding chapters of the Third U.S. National Climate Assessment, due out in 2013. This technical report is available at the USGCRP website, as are other completed technical reports. Additional lead authors of this report include Shawn Carter, USGS: F. Stuart Chapin III, University of Alaska, Fairbanks; Peter Kareiva, The Nature Conservancy; and Mary Ruckelshaus, Natural Capital Project.“
Now, we are facing another rise in sea level of 1 to 4 feet. A rise of just 16 inches would be enough to endanger roads, highways and airports in San Francisco and Oakland. It could contaminate crucial groundwater in Los Angeles.
Heat is already the leading cause of weather-related deaths, and the expected temperature increase will mean longer and hotter heat waves, like the one that killed 164 Californians during a blistering week in 2006.
That’s the bad news contained in the National Climate Assessment. The good news is we can do something to prevent these dire outcomes.
The report should be a wake-up call for leaders in Washington to overcome gridlock and start working on solutions. For models of how to proceed, they need only look to California and other states and cities that have begun to move forward in a bipartisan way.
The first step for policymakers — and for ordinary citizens too — is to understand the situation we face, which means carefully reading the National Climate Assessment. It may not be as gripping to look at or have the provocative appeal of a raging wildfire or another act of God, but the knowledge in this report is crucial to understanding how to change, to adapt, to prevent and to prepare for future disasters.
If you can believe it way back in 1990(!), President George HW Bush signed America’s first climate change law called the Global Change Research Act. The act ordered the Federal Government to study the impacts and issues of climate change in America.
There are several elements of the act, but most important is that every four years, the government is supposed to issue a climate change report called the National Climate Assessment. You can read previous NCA reports, here.
The next NCA is due to be published within the next few months.
President George H.W. Bush signed America’s climate change program back in 1990. The Act required a new agency be formed, called the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), which aggregates the best available climate science in the US. They monitor and report on climate change and impacts to America. The USGCRP publishes findings every four years. This report is called the National Climate Assessment (NCA) and you can take a peak at the latest report, here.
His son, btw, George W. Bush Jr., tried to gut his father’s Global Change Research Act by defunding it, delaying actions, preventing staff from publishing the NCA, and intimidating climate scientists. He, Bush Jr., failed in these efforts (even losing a few court cases) and now we have a fully functional climate change research program. Check it out: National Climate Assessment.
Executive Order on Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change
As called for in the Climate Action Plan, President Obama signed an Executive Order
on November 1st, 2013 to direct Federal agencies to take a series of
steps to make it easier for American communities to strengthen their
resilience to extreme weather and prepare for other impacts of climate
change. The Executive Order instructs agencies to modernize Federal
programs to support climate-resilient investments, plan for climate
change related risks to Federal facilities, operations, and programs,
and provide the information, data, and tools that state, local, and
private-sector leaders need to make smart decisions to improve
preparedness and resilience.
The Executive Order also established a Task Force
of state, local, and tribal leaders to advise the Administration on how
the Federal Government can respond to the needs of communities
nationwide that are dealing with the impacts of climate change. The
Task Force members include state, local, and tribal leaders from across
the country who will use their first-hand experiences in building
climate preparedness and resilience in their communities to inform their
recommendations to the Administration.
The Executive Order also called for a Climate and Natural Resources Priority Agenda
that represents a first of its kind, comprehensive commitment across
the Federal Government to support resilience of our natural resources.
It identifies a suite of actions the Federal Government will take to
enhance the resilience of America’s natural resources to the impacts of
climate change and promote their ability to absorb carbon dioxide. The
agenda was developed jointly by Federal agencies and is informed by the
President’s State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate
Preparedness and Resilience and other stakeholder engagement.
Under Executive Order 13514,
President Obama directed Federal agencies to cut waste, pollution, and
costs in Federal operations and to evaluate agency climate risks to
protect taxpayer investments and ensure they can continue to meet their
mission and serve the American public in the face of a changing climate.
In February 2013, Federal agencies released their
first-ever Climate Change Adaptation Plans, outlining strategies to
reduce the vulnerability of Federal programs, assets, and investments to
the impacts of climate change, such as sea level rise or more frequent
or severe extreme weather. Agency plans highlight actions to plan for
and address these impacts in their programs and operations.
In its October 2010 Progress Report, the Interagency Climate Change
Adaptation Task Force called for collaborative approaches within the
government to address key cross-cutting issues related to climate change
preparedness and resilience. The Task Force is working to ensure
Federal agencies align their climate change adaptation planning efforts
to build a coordinated and comprehensive response to the impacts of
climate change on public health, communities, oceans, wildlife, and
The federal government should expand its efforts to understand climate change impacts in the United States and provide more practical guidance for adapting to climate change, the National Research Council said in an April 15report.
The draft National Climate Assessment does a reasonable job of fulfilling its objectives of assessing current climate change science and potential impacts on the United States, but the federal government should provide more information and guidance for the country, according to the research council report, A Review of the Draft 2013 National Climate Assessment.
The National Climate Assessment was released by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, a federal advisory council, in January (05 ECR, 1/8/13).
The draft assessment lacks information about climate change impacts on cities besides storm surge and sea-level rise, as well as detailed information on how urban areas can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to the council, a branch of the National Academies. The report also lacks data on potential health threats related to infectious diseases caused by climate change, according to the review. The report should consider the steps to pursuing climate change mitigation and adaptation in urban areas, such as developing new engineering codes and other standards, the council said.
The climate assessment should give more examples of actual climate change adaptation efforts under way in the Unites States, the review states. It also should provide ideas for engaging small business and households in climate change adaptation, rather than just the government and large private-sector institutions, the review states.
Basically, the NRC reviewed the government’s climate report and concluded it has some weaknesses.
USGCRP Seeks Comments on US Strategic Climate Plan
The US Global Change Research Program is the American version of the IPCC. They produce climate science for the US. “On September 30th, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) released its draft 2012-2021 strategic plan for comment. The USGCRP coordinates federal research aimed at understanding, assessing, and responding to global change. Comments are due by November 29th. To learn more, visit: http://strategicplancomments.globalchange.gov/.” (Disclosure, I work closely with USGCRP adaptation staff). All you do is read the draft plan, then send relevant comments here. Pretty straight forward. They need your good feedback!