This week, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) released its long-awaited report, titled Global Climate Change Impacts on the United States. You can click on the report cover image to read the NOAA press release, or access the report directly here.
It contains lots of good details on what some of the impacts of climate change may be on different regions and sectors in the U.S. I’m still looking through the report myself, but thought I’d get the link up and set up a little background so you can do the same.
Congress mandated the creation of the USGCRP in 1990, and it’s ultimately overseen by the Executive Office of the President (which is why you’ll sometimes hear USGCRP products referred to as White House reports). It’s made up of an impressive list of 13 government agencies, including the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Defense, State, and Transportation, as well as the National Science Foundation and the Smithsonian. They don’t just address climate – “global change” encompasses a range of factors and stresses that alter the environment as we know it, including changes in land use and productivity, oceans, water resources, and ecosystems. The current climate assessment focuses on how climate impacts different regions of the country and different sectors of our society and our economy.
The report has some important statements about climate impacts in the southeast US. They find that over the SE US the average annual temperature has risen by about 2 degrees Farenheit since 1970. Precipitation has changed too, with about a 30% increase in autumn rainfall everywhere except south Florida and a decrease in summer rainfall across the entire region. Model projections suggest a further increase in annual average temperature between 4.5 and 9 degrees F by 2100, depending on how fast humans continue to emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. They caution that there will be a much bigger increase in average summer temperature – as much as 10.5 degrees F in the highest emission scenario. The number of very hot days will increase dramatically! In their Southeast fact sheet, they highlight five key issues for the region, which I’ve copied below:
- Projected increases in air and water temperatures will cause heat-related stresses for people, plants, and animals.
- Decreased water availability is very likely to affect the region’s economy as well as its natural systems.
- Sea-level rise and the likely increase in hurricane intensity and associated storm surge will be among the most serious consequences of climate change.
- Ecological thresholds are likely to be crossed throughout the region, causing major disruptions to ecosystems and to the benefits they provide to people.
- Quality of life will be affected by increasing heat stress, water scarcity, severe weather events, and reduced availability of insurance for at-risk properties.
If you’re not up for reading the full report, do at least check out their web site. There are a lot of brief summaries and fact sheets accessible on the web site, so you don’t even have to download documents!