Climate change nation: Evidence of impact visible across US

By John Parnell

The impacts of climate change are visible across the length and breadth of the US, according to the draft release of the government’s National Climate Assessment.

Receding sea ice in Alaska, coastal vulnerability to storm surges in Florida and nationwide drought are among some of the threats already identified in the States.

The report, issued to the President once every four years, brings together work by 240 academics and compiled by the US Global Change Research Program, which incorporates a number of government departments including energy, agriculture, public health and commerce.

Record high temperatures and widespread drought are among the climate change impacts visible across the US. (Source: Flickr/Claire.M)

“Global climate is changing, and this is apparent across the US in a wide range of observations. The climate change of the past 50 years is due primarily to human activities, predominantly the burning of fossil fuels,” the draft states.

The US was afflicted by a number of extreme weather events in 2012 including Superstorm Sandy and severe drought. While it is not possible to link these directly to climate change, their frequency and severity has changed.

“Some extreme weather and climate events have increased in recent decades, and there is new and stronger evidence that many of these increases are related to human activities,” according to the draft, which is now subject to a public consultation and review process.

The report states that coastal regions are vulnerable to inland flooding with storm surges putting transport, water supply and other infrastructure at risk.

Reduced crop yields and rising commodity prices will affect food markets although the initial findings state that agriculture will be largely resilient in the US for the next 25 years.

Record heat

Last week the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that record average temperatures were reached in 2012.

Drought affected more than 60% of the country while storms, including Superstorm Sandy brought widespread flooding.

President Obama has pledged to make climate change a priority in his second term and is thought to be considering a summit on the issue later this year to begin work on a new national climate change strategy.

While there is significant and vocal opposition to climate change action from individual members of congress and senators, US government departments accept the findings of climate science.

The Department of Defense has classified climate change as a national security threat, a sentiment echoed by the incoming Secretary of State John Kerry.



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