The effects of climate change in the United States are “intensifying across the country” and will soon add up to hundreds of billions of dollars per year without rapid corrective action, according to a national climate assessment released by the Trump administration on Friday, while a large proportion of U.S. citizens were preoccupied with the busiest shopping day of their year.
“The report points out that the era of climate consequences for the U.S. is well under way, and only actions taken in the next few years can be effective in addressing the scope and severity of the problem,” Axios reports. “The authors warn that neither climate adaptation nor the pace of emissions cuts are keeping up with the severity and swiftness of the challenge.”
The report’s authors, drawn from 13 different federal agencies, “say they are more certain than ever that climate change poses a severe threat to Americans’ health and pocketbooks, as well as to the country’s infrastructure and natural resources,” the Washington Post adds. “And while it avoids policy recommendations, the report’s sense of urgency and alarm stands in stark contrast to the lack of any apparent plan from [Donald Trump] to tackle the problems, which, according to the government he runs, are increasingly dire.”
The congressionally-mandated report concludes that climate-driven disasters and changes are already worsening across the U.S., and on track to get worse without a change in federal policies. It points to:
- Mounting wildfires, on track to increase 200 to 600% by mid-century;
- Labour-related losses due to extreme heat as high as US$155 billion per year by 2090;
- Damage from sea level rise and storm surge flooding as high as $120 billion per year;
- Declining yields of key crops like corn, wheat, and soybeans;
- A city like Phoenix, Arizona seeing 120 to 150 days per year above 100°F/37.8°C by 2100, compared to 80 today;
- Declining snow cover in western mountain ranges, leading to threats to downstream water supplies;
- Severe coral bleaching in the Caribbean, Hawaii, Florida, and the United States’ Pacific territories;
- A “staggering rate of warming” in Alaska that has “upended its ecosystems, from once ice-clogged coastlines to increasingly thawing permafrost tundras”.
The authors state that the continental U.S. has warmed 1.8°F/1.0°C in the last century. Sea levels have risen nine inches (22.5 centimetres), and the country is “being racked by far worse heat waves than the nation experienced only 50 years ago.”
The report concludes that climate change “is transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us.” The authors call for aggressive action on climate change mitigation and adaptation “to avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades.”
But while National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spokesperson Monica Allen asserted that “this report has not been altered or revised in any way because of political considerations,” scientists were frustrated the administration chose to release it on Black Friday, a moment in the year when many Americans are focused on the latest consumer craze rather than national policy. “The release date, on the Friday after Thanksgiving, which is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year, is likely to bury the news coverage of its findings,” Axios notes.
Allen said the timing of the report’s release was less important than its contents, adding that the decision to release on Black Friday was “made in the last week or so.”
Axios adds the White House “has allowed the National Climate Assessment process to move forward without interference, while at the same time expressing doubt about the causes and extent of the threat of human-caused climate change when it comes to forming its energy policies.” But “no matter how hard they try, the Trump administration can’t bury the effects of climate change in a Black Friday news dump—effects their own federal government scientists have uncovered,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
“The president says outrageous things like climate change is a hoax engineered by the Chinese and raking forests will prevent catastrophic wildfires,” Whitehouse added. “But serious consequences like collapsing coastal housing prices and trillions of dollars in stranded fossil fuel assets await us if we don’t act.”
The Post notes that “the categorical tone of the new assessment reflects scientists’ growing confidence in the ability to detect the role of a changing climate in individual extreme events, such as heat waves and droughts. At the same time, increasingly sophisticated computer simulations now allow them to project future changes in highly specific regions of the country.”
But for many Americans, “no simulations are necessary,” when the effects of climate change are playing out before their eyes.
“We don’t debate who caused it. You go outside, the streets are flooded. What are you going to do about it? It’s our reality nowadays,” said Miami Beach Chief Resilience Officer Susanne Torriente. “We need to use this best available data so we can start making decisions to start investing in our future…It shouldn’t be that complicated or that partisan.”