Yesterday’s draft assessment warns that climatic shifts have affected and will continue to affect human health, water supplies, agriculture, transportation and energy. They will pose the greatest challenges to communities that already are facing economic or health-related problems, and to species and habitats that already face other pressures, the assessment says.
“While some changes will bring potential benefits, such as longer growing seasons, many will be disruptive to society because our institutions and infrastructure have been designed for the relatively stable climate of the past, not the changing one of the present and future,” it says. “Similarly, the natural ecosystems that sustain us will be challenged by changing conditions.”
Andrew Steer, the president of the World Resources Institute, an environmental research organization, called for the White House to pay attention.
“In his second term, President Obama has a chance to ensure his legacy as a leader on climate change,” Steer said in a statement. “Now is the time for the administration to move forward with new standards on power plants and other actions to put America on course to a low-carbon future.”
The Clean Air Task Force, a nonprofit organization that focuses on the air pollution from coal-fired power plants, sent a letter this week to the president that outlines steps his administration could take to curb carbon emissions and spur innovation in energy research.
Climate change “involves enormous uncertainties and unknowable risks, multiple and sometimes competing pathways forward, and even disagreement about what ‘success’ would mean,” the letter says. “Still, we know the direction we need to head: towards a society and economy with much lower emissions of greenhouse gases.”
The National Climate Assessment is coordinated by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, which is made up of 13 federal agencies. It’s produced by the National Climate Assessment Development Advisory Committee, a 60-member federal committee made up of notable scientists, business leaders and other experts.
The final assessment, to be released early in 2014, will document how climate change affects regions and sectors across the United States and how society is responding to it. The public has until April 12 to comment on the draft report.