The latest report from the federal government on climate science predicts that the United States will face significant and escalating financial consequences due to climate change, with the greatest impact felt by the elderly, children, and low-income groups. It was released on Tuesday.
The Fifth National Climate Assessment, which is required by Congress and compiled every four years by 13 federal agencies, has highlighted the severe risks that climate change poses to the economy, human health, ecosystems, buildings, homes, and infrastructure such as roads. These risks have the potential to worsen existing inequalities.
The latest report provides a comprehensive overview of the current climate risks, particularly in light of the ongoing record-breaking temperatures caused by the burning of fossil fuels. It highlights the significant progress made by scientists in the past five years in comprehending the impact of disasters and rising temperatures on specific locations on a daily basis.
During his remarks on Tuesday morning, President Joe Biden emphasized that the report clearly demonstrates the widespread effects of climate change on all areas and industries in the United States. He cited examples such as wildfires in Hawaii and devastating floods in New York, which have occurred since he began his presidency.
The report indicates that communities throughout the United States are actively working to decrease the impact of climate change. However, it also serves as a reminder that much more needs to be done. We must not become too comfortable with our efforts. Most importantly, it highlights the potential for climate action to unite the country and accomplish significant goals.
Leaders urged for increased action to reduce emissions in light of the report’s dire forecasts of additional costly disasters, intensified heat waves, and dwindling water resources that threaten the well-being, prosperity, and security of individuals.
According to National Climate Adviser Ali Zaidi, the main message to be gathered from this evaluation and our combined efforts on climate should not be one of hopelessness and gloom. Instead, it should inspire a feeling of optimism and potential.
The frequency and intensity of extreme weather has increased. In the Western region, heatwaves have become more prevalent since the 1980s. The Southwest has experienced a significant rise in drought risks over the past century. In the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains, extreme rainfall has seen a noticeable increase. Since the 1980s, hurricanes have become stronger, intensified faster, and produced more rainfall. Additionally, wildfires are growing in size and causing more damage.
During the 1980s, events resulting in $1 billion or greater in destruction took place every four months. However, currently they occur every three weeks.
According to administration officials, the science of attribution has shed light on the extent to which human-caused climate change contributes to specific events, providing a clearer understanding of the harmful effects of global warming. Furthermore, scientists now have a greater understanding of the impact that each additional amount of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere has on the planet.
“Today we can document the risks that we face per degree of warming. We can put a number on the extent to which climate change is fueling our record-breaking weather extremes,” said Katharine Hayhoe, chief scientist at The Nature Conservancy, who worked on the report. She said federal scientists now more clearly understand how climate change has cascading effects throughout the country, shedding light on “the vulnerability of our systems from socioeconomics to national security.”
There are frequent instances where concerns coincide, as seen with the impact of Covid-19. The presence of air pollution from factories with high levels of pollutants and smoke from wildfires have made communities of color, who already have higher rates of lung and heart diseases, more vulnerable to Covid-19 compared to white Americans.
According to Dave White, director of the Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation at Arizona State University, worker productivity and earnings have decreased due to hotter temperatures in the Southwest. White, who led the Southwest regional chapter of the assessment, also noted that extreme heat and drought have negatively impacted agricultural yields and put pressure on surface and groundwater resources. As a result of the lack of rain, farmers have been forced to extract more water from already depleted aquifers.
The assessment suggests that these inequalities are caused by larger systemic issues. Black homeowners are more likely to experience flooding from climate change, in part due to discriminatory practices like redlining that limited their housing options. Outdoor workers, who are mostly Latino and undocumented immigrants, are at a higher risk for health and safety hazards during heatwaves and wildfires.
According to White, the report provides a scientific foundation for comprehending the effects of climate change on both the Earth and its inhabitants. As the consequences of a heating planet become increasingly unavoidable, this report offers insight into the potential consequences if action is not taken to address climate change.
He stated that in a time where false information and conflicting viewpoints are prevalent, it is crucial to recognize the credibility and transparency of this authoritative report. It can serve as a reliable source of information to guide discussions.
According to the assessment, failing to address climate change will result in major issues that affect multiple areas. It is causing disruptions in supply chains and creating an environment where contagious diseases can easily spread, potentially leading to future pandemics like Covid-19.
The report revealed that direct costs make up a significant portion of overall costs, with weather-related damage alone amounting to $150 billion annually. However, implementing adaptation measures can potentially reduce storm-related costs by 33%.
The phenomenon of climate change has resulted in the emergence of novel living conditions that involve significant expenses.
The sea level has risen more significantly, amounting to a total of 11 inches in the last hundred years.
The impact of these events has had a negative effect on both the financial and physical well-being of Americans. From 1991 to 2017, temperature increases were responsible for 19% of federal crop insurance payouts. Additionally, a rise in sea level of one foot has resulted in a decrease of property values by 14.7%. Furthermore, days with high temperatures over 90 degrees Fahrenheit have led to an increase in deaths by 0.9 per 100,000 individuals.
The report stated that if climate change is not addressed, the expenses will increase. For every 1 degree Fahrenheit increase in temperature, there will be a 0.13% decrease in GDP growth. By 2050, rising temperatures will result in a 1.45% increase in spending for healthcare, infrastructure, and other public services. Additionally, changes in temperature, drought, and agricultural production could lead to a migration of 1.4 to 6.7 million people from Mexico.
The report states that relying solely on adapting to climate change without decreasing emissions is insufficient. The amount of investment in adaptation is minimal and the strategies used are often incomplete, conflicting, or illogical. This indicates that current efforts are inadequate and unlikely to mitigate the future consequences of climate change.
“We must come to terms with the fact that our society was designed for a climate that is no longer present,” stated a second official from the administration during a conversation with reporters. This individual did not have permission to speak publicly on the matter.