Report: Climate change has already hit USA - and time is RUNNING OUT

Libertarian think-tank counters that boffins ignore 'the positives from climate change'


The US government–mandated Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) has released a mammoth 841-page report on the impact of climate change on the US, region by region, focusing on its effects on water, human health, agriculture, urban life, and more.

The bottom line: climate disruption – their term – caused by human activities is already having an overall negative effect on the nation, but although "historically successful strategies for managing climate-sensitive resources and infrastructure will become less effective over time," there are still measures that can be taken today.

As is true of most climate scientists, the "team of over 300 experts" who contributed to the National Climate Assessment have no doubt about which side they support in the ongoing climate clash.

"Long-term, independent records from weather stations, satellites, ocean buoys, tide gauges, and many other data sources all confirm that our nation, like the rest of the world, is warming," they write. "Many lines of independent evidence demonstrate that the rapid warming of the past half-century is due primarily to human activities."

Chart: global temperature and concentration of atmospheric CO2

Correlation may not be causation, but when the physics of radiative forcing are taken into account...
(datasets from the NCDC Global Surface Temperature Anomalies and the
Earth Policy Institute Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Concentration)

The National Climate Assessment assesses that climate disruption is not merely something that will affect future generation: it's happening now. The authors argue that some types of extreme weather events are increasing in number and becoming more intense, sea levels have been detected to be rising, and oceans are becoming more acidic.

"These and other aspects of climate change are disrupting people's lives and damaging some sectors of our economy," the authors write. Dividing the US into eight different regions, they point out the following challenges – and, in a few cases, opportunities – caused or exacerbated by climate change:

  • Northeast: heat waves, more extreme precipitation events, coastal flooding due to sea-level rise and storm surges
  • Southeast: decreased water availability, extreme events such as hurricanes
  • Midwest: heat waves, droughts, and floods, but longer ice-free periods for shipping on the Great Lakes and longer growing seasons and increased yields of some crops
  • Great Plains: increased demand for water and energy, and impacts on agricultural practices
  • Southwest: drought, wildfires, and increased competition for scarce water resources
  • Northwest: earlier snowmelt–caused changes in the timing of streamflow reducing summer water supply and "causing far-reaching ecological and socioeconomic consequences"
  • Alaska: rapidly receding summer sea ice, shrinking glaciers, and thawing permafrost
  • Hawaii: shrinking freshwater supplies, decreasing food and water security

In a nutshell, if you don't mind the heat, droughts, and flood, the agricultural and shipping economies will be looking good in the Midwest, but in all other regions of the US, climate disruption is going to be, well, disruptive.

Then again, all will not be beer and skittles in the Midwest, either. As the report points out, "longer growing seasons ... can increase pollen production, intensifying and lengthening the allergy season." Can't win for losing, eh?

"As the impacts of climate change are becoming more prevalent, Americans face choices," the authors write, displaying a tremendous grasp of the obvious. Although there are already enough greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and heat absorbed by the oceans to ensure that human-caused climate change will continue into the future, there are still matters that need to be dealt with.

Or, as they put it with an equal display of TGO: "Lower emissions of heat-trapping gases and particles mean less future warming and less-severe impacts; higher emissions mean more warming and more severe impacts."

Exactly how much warming will increase is a matter to be estimated by climate simulations, which the report contends have improved due to higher resolution and by "considering more options for future human behavior." Results from 30 different models have been combined into the latest übermodel, the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project, 5th Phase (CMIP5).

Four new simulations for projected US temperatures due to climate change, from the National Climate Assessment

Depending upon which CO2-concentration RCP (Representative Concentration Pathway)
you choose as a future-emissions scenario, the US is about to get
either a wee bit warmer or hotter than Hades (click to enlarge)

The report's authors don't focus only on gloom and doom, however; there are also chapters on mitigation – how to slow global temperature increases – and adaptation – how to deal with the effects of climate disruption. The bad news is that there's a lot to be done, and although "substantial" planning is underway, "few measures have been implemented and those that have appear to be incremental changes."

The good news is that "Climate change adaptation actions often fulfill other societal goals, such as sustainable development, disaster risk reduction, or improvements in quality of life."

To be sure, both mitigation and adaptation would be mammoth undertakings, requiring societal buy-in and political will that are currently lacking. But if and when global leadership accepts the reality of climate change, history has shown that populations can unite to move quickly and decisively to stave off an existential threat – remember World War II?

Or maybe not. The National Climate Assessment was – of course – not welcomed by all parties to the climate change wrangle. The libertarian Cato Institute, for example, blogged that "The report overly focuses on the supposed negative impacts from climate change while largely dismissing or ignoring the positives from climate change," and US Senator James Mountain "Jim" Inhofe (R-OK), author of The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future, issued a press release deriding the report as a political stunt based on "global warming alarmism."

Despite the conclusion of the 259 climate scientists who authored the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's recent Fifth Assessment Report: The Physical Science Basis that "the science now shows with 95 percent certainty that human activity is the dominant cause of observed warming since the mid-20th century," as well as the assessments of the 300 who worked on Monday's report, Inhofe argues that "We can all agree that natural variations in the climate are taking place, but man-made global warming still remains a theory."

You can offer your own well-reasoned opinions in Comments, but first download any or all of the hefty, chart-and-data-stuffed National Climate Assessment, including the 140-page Highlights and a 20-page Overview, here. ®

Similar topics

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • 381,000-plus Kubernetes API servers 'exposed to internet'
    Firewall isn't a made-up word from the Hackers movie, people

    A large number of servers running the Kubernetes API have been left exposed to the internet, which is not great: they're potentially vulnerable to abuse.

    Nonprofit security organization The Shadowserver Foundation recently scanned 454,729 systems hosting the popular open-source platform for managing and orchestrating containers, finding that more than 381,645 – or about 84 percent – are accessible via the internet to varying degrees thus providing a cracked door into a corporate network.

    "While this does not mean that these instances are fully open or vulnerable to an attack, it is likely that this level of access was not intended and these instances are an unnecessarily exposed attack surface," Shadowserver's team stressed in a write-up. "They also allow for information leakage on version and build."

    Continue reading
  • A peek into Gigabyte's GPU Arm for AI, HPC shops
    High-performance platform choices are going beyond the ubiquitous x86 standard

    Arm-based servers continue to gain momentum with Gigabyte Technology introducing a system based on Ampere's Altra processors paired with Nvidia A100 GPUs, aimed at demanding workloads such as AI training and high-performance compute (HPC) applications.

    The G492-PD0 runs either an Ampere Altra or Altra Max processor, the latter delivering 128 64-bit cores that are compatible with the Armv8.2 architecture.

    It supports 16 DDR4 DIMM slots, which would be enough space for up to 4TB of memory if all slots were filled with 256GB memory modules. The chassis also has space for no fewer than eight Nvidia A100 GPUs, which would make for a costly but very powerful system for those workloads that benefit from GPU acceleration.

    Continue reading
  • GitLab version 15 goes big on visibility and observability
    GitOps fans can take a spin on the free tier for pull-based deployment

    One-stop DevOps shop GitLab has announced version 15 of its platform, hot on the heels of pull-based GitOps turning up on the platform's free tier.

    Version 15.0 marks the arrival of GitLab's next major iteration and attention this time around has turned to visibility and observability – hardly surprising considering the acquisition of OpsTrace as 2021 drew to a close, as well as workflow automation, security and compliance.

    GitLab puts out monthly releases –  hitting 15.1 on June 22 –  and we spoke to the company's senior director of Product, Kenny Johnston, at the recent Kubecon EU event, about what will be added to version 15 as time goes by. During a chat with the company's senior director of Product, Kenny Johnston, at the recent Kubecon EU event, The Register was told that this was more where dollars were being invested into the product.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022