It is possible that only very few of you have heard that the US Global Change Research Program issued an important report titled: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Vol II. The report was released the day after Thanksgiving, so I don't blame you if you didn't see it. You were probably laying on the couch, belly full of turkey. Or perhaps you were at the mall, fighting the Black Friday crowds. So, since maybe not too many people saw it, I wanted to give YOU a chance to know about this. I am sending this to you because I am your friend.
Unlike the recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, this new report focuses on the effects of climate change on the US.
Here are some key takeaways:
Divided in 29 chapters, it summarizes effects on communities, the economy, health, water, ecosystems, agriculture, infrastructure, oceans and coasts, air quality, tourism... Basically, every aspect of life in the US will be (or is) affected. The report also presents the expected effects by region of the US. Check out your region if you want to see a crystal ball into your (near) future.
In my view, the most interesting chapters are the two chapters on Reducing Risks through Adaptation and Emissions Mitigation.
"Communities, governments, and businesses are working to reduce risks from and costs associated with climate change by taking action to lower greenhouse gas emissions and implement adaptation strategies. While mitigation and adaptation efforts have expanded substantially in the last four years, they do not yet approach the scale considered necessary to avoid substantial damages to the economy, environment, and human health over the coming decades."
In my interpretation, the report basically emphasizes mitigation and adaptation actions LOCALLY (state, cities, private sector), rather than (or maybe in addition to) at the federal or global levels. I wonder why...
"Mitigation and adaptation actions also present opportunities for additional benefits that are often more immediate and localized, such as improving local air quality and economies through investments in infrastructure."
Yes. Sure. It would be good to act locally to mitigate and adapt to the expected effects of climate change. Sure, let's plant more trees in New York. Let's shut down more power plants. Sure. Would these local actions result in measurable benefits at the global level? Only if many, many places do the same.
Do we really think that we will be OK as California burns, Venice disappears into the ocean, and tropical storms flood the east coast? No. It is all interconnected. As the report says:
"Extreme weather and climate-related impacts on one system can result in increased risks or failures in other critical systems, including water resources, food production and distribution, energy and transportation, public health, international trade, and national security."
Believe or don't believe. Either way, take the time to understand what is happening. Do what you can to help mitigate and adapt.
Dr. Luz Claudio is an environmental health scientist and author of the book: How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper: The Step-by-Step Guide. She blogs about life in academia, and environmental health news. Opinions expressed on this blog are solely her own and may not reflect the opinions of her employer or colleagues.
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Dr. Luz Claudio is an environmental health scientist, mother and consultant, originally from Puerto Rico. She is a tenured professor of environmental medicine and public health. Luz recently published her first book: How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper: The Step-by-Step Guide. Dr. Claudio has internship programs and resources for young scientists. Opinions expressed in this blog are solely her own and may not reflect her employer's views.