From hotter heat waves and heavier downpours to more frequent flooding and drought, climate change is already having a broad impact on the nation’s weather and economy, according to a new government report.
“Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present,” according to the third National Climate Assessment. “Corn producers in Iowa, oyster growers in Washington state, and maple syrup producers in Vermont are all observing climate-related changes.”
“Americans are noticing changes all around them,” according to the report. “Summers are longer and hotter, and extended period of unusual heat last longer than any living American has ever experienced. … Rain comes in heavier downpours.”
President Obama seized on the report’s alarming predictions for the future to try and bolster support for his efforts to curb climate change.
“I think it’s important for everybody to know that this climate assessment that’s been done over the course of four years really establishes that climate change is already affecting Americans all across the country – in every region,” Obama said in an interview on Tuesday with ABC’s Ginger Zee. “If you’re near a coastline, you may be concerned about flooding or more hurricanes. If you’re in the west, you’re concerned about drought.”
According to the White House, the findings “underscore the need for urgent action to combat the threats from climate change, protect American citizens and communities today, and build a sustainable future for our kids and grandkids.”
The report, mandated by Congress and published every four years, comes on the heels of the “Climate Action Plan” that the president launched last June, which laid out concrete steps to cut carbon pollution and counter the impacts of climate change.
“The good news,” Obama told ABC News, “is that we’ve already taken some big actions, whether it’s increasing fuel efficiency standards on cars, increasing fuel efficiency on appliances, but we’re going to have to do more.”
So what sweeping changes await? Here are the top 10 frightening highlights of the National Climate Assessment:
- Bigger, more frequent droughts.
- Larger wildfires.
- Glaciers and polar ice will melt at a faster rate.
- The possible reemergence of currently uncommon diseases, such as dengue fever.
- A higher risk of heat and respiratory stress from poor air quality.
- Deteriorating infrastructure. For example, extreme heat is already damaging roads, rail lines and airport runways.
- Water shortages and diminished water quality are more likely.
- Food security could be at risk as climate change threatens crops and livestock.
- Poverty will likely be exacerbated.
- Species will become increasingly extinct as ecosystems are disrupted.