While the media is inundated with partisan political squabbles, Congress actually mandated a federal report that provides a comprehensive overview of climate change effects across the U.S. The report, the Fifth National Climate Assessment, was just completed and released. Here are key aspects, to which I’ll add things that you can do personally to make a positive impact.
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‘Climate Change Is Here’:
Every Part of the U.S. Will Suffer Climate-
Related Disasters, Report Finds
November 17, 2023
The main message of the assessment is clear: Every part of the country will experience weather extremes due to climate change. A Biden administration official said, as Inside Climate News reported …
“There is not a part of the U.S. that
gets a pass on climate impacts.”
The assessment is a federal report mandated by Congress that provides a comprehensive overview of climate change effects across the U.S.
Each region of the country will experience its own climate-related disasters. For example, the Northeast has some of the most extreme rainfall and flooding, the Biden administration official said.
Dave Reidmiller, co-author of the Northeast chapter of the assessment and director of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute’s Climate Center, as reported by Inside Climate News, said …
“In the Northeast, we have some of the
oldest infrastructure in the country
and a lot of it obviously faces pretty
extreme conditions given the kind of
strong seasonality we experience here.
“So, whether that is dams or our electrical
grid, or roadways, culverts, wastewater
treatment plants, you name it, they all
face risks from climate change and the
fact that they are aging means that there
is likely to be increased risk to them.”
Coastal areas are experiencing flooding with high tide that is getting worse as sea-level rise washes through neighborhoods. Midwestern states are grappling with a combination of extreme heat, drought and flooding, which are all affecting agriculture.
The assessment found that nationwide climate impacts are disproportionately affecting those who are less wealthy, as well as Black and Indigenous communities and people of color. The report said …
“The institutions of slavery and inter-
generational ownership of individuals
as property, Jim Crow segregation, and
housing discrimination have resulted
in many BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and
People of Color) communities living in
neighborhoods that are disproportion-
ately exposed to environmental risks and
with fewer resources to address them when
compared to majority White communities.”
Other regions of the country have inequities as well, according to the assessment. A press release from the White House said …
“Underserved and overburdened
communities face disproportionate
risks and impacts from climate
change, which exacerbates existing
over burdened communities are at
higher risk of climate impacts due to
ongoing systemic discrimination, ex-
clusion, and under- or disinvestment.
“These social inequities contribute to
persistent disparities in the availability
of resources needed to prepare for, respond
to, and recover from climate impacts.”
Along with the report, the White House announced $6 billion in investments toward climate resilience efforts, including bolstering the aging infrastructure of the electric grid, supporting conservation efforts, reducing flood risks and advancing environmental justice.
All regions of the U.S. have started making efforts to adapt to climate change and curb their contributions to the climate crisis. The most action has come from the Northeast and Southwest, including California, Inside Climate News reported.
Most regions of the country are experiencing a billion-dollar disaster an average of every three weeks, especially in the Midwest and along the coasts.
In the Southeast, population growth is causing more people to be exposed to climate impacts like hurricanes, rising sea levels and extreme heat. At the same time, adaptation plans have frequently been based on information that is limited or outdated and does not account for future risks.
Kathie Dello, a North Carolina state climatologist who is one of the co-authors of the study and director of the North Carolina State Climate Office, as reported by Inside Climate News, said …
”We’re moving more people into harm’s way,
and we’re not doing it in a very coordinated
way. Our cities just aren’t moving fast
enough to keep up with climate change.”
Sea-level rise is a consistent threat to coastal communities, with the Southeast particularly at risk. Sea levels have risen by six inches relative to land elevations from 1970 to 2020. Future projections are for an additional 16 to 23 inches by mid-century and two to seven feet by the end of the century. Saltwater has already inundated coastal estuaries and forests, reducing their ability to sequester carbon.
Arati Prabhakar, President Joe Biden’s chief science adviser, as Nature reported. says …
“Climate change is here.”
Prabhakar added that the country is making significant new investments in climate measures. The government’s $2 billion in funding for community-based environmental justice grants and $3.9 billion for modernizing the electric grid, as well as several hundred million aimed at helping secure reliable community water supplies and flood resilience, offer some hope.
Rachel Cleetus, lead economist and policy director for the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, as reported by Nature, said …
“This is not about curling up in a cor-
ner in despair. There are very concrete
steps we can take to cut our emissions
and to promote climate resilience.”
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On a personal level, I immediately wonder what I, as one individual among several million, can realistically do to help address this problem – which, unabated, threatens all of our ability to enjoy a life on this planet. I do think about Margaret Mead’s quote …
”Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful,
committed citizens can change the world;
indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
I also think about a placard I saw at a climate change march …
“The greatest threat to our planet is the
belief that someone else will save it.”
Because of the enormity of the problem, and my desire to give readers something that’s positive, specific, and practical, I began by turning to D, and asked for advice …
“This is a very big topic. And an uncomfortable topic. Yet, there are things that can be done. Therefore, there is hope.
“We would say that individuals need to connect to their local climate organizations, and learn what is potentially at stake. These are usually regional planning groups … such as by Googling regional (in my case) ‘Hampton Roads climate change organizations.’ They usually have recommendations about what to do, and can report what they are doing that’s more relevant to your specific region. Then, adjust your home as needed.
“When you learn what your regional climate change organization is doing, you may also want to become involved in their efforts to change your quality-of-life experience for the better in response to climate change in your specific region.
“Much can actually be done to mitigate potential difficulties. Please learn what those are for your area.”
To D’s suggestions, if at all possible, I’d also recommend buying an electric car, planting trees where suitable locations exist near you, and adding solar panels so you power your home and car without the use of fossil fuels. I’ve found that it’s also a lot less expensive to live this way. If each of us takes just one step, it actually will make a significant difference.