The latest National Climate Assessment (NCA) report does not bode well for the American people, who are already reeling from the effects of climate change, what with crazy wildfires, devastating storms, coastal flooding and other natural disasters pummelling the country with increasing frequency.
There is no denying the fact that steps are being taken to cope with climate change issues the nation is faced with, but it’s a classic case of too little, too late – way below the level necessary to effectively address the looming threat of environmental disaster and its cascading effects that will only exacerbate in the decades ahead.
If additional corrective measures are not adopted soon enough, substantial damages to the nation’s economy, ecosystems, communities, human health, agriculture and infrastructure is practically imminent, with annual losses “projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century,” warns the report.
The NCA report is certainly food for thought, more so because it comes at a time when California has not even begun to come to terms with the deadliest wildfire ever recorded.
In fact, it continues to rage in areas that firefighters have not able to access due to the steep and rugged nature of the terrain; and the heavy rains the region is currently experiencing has only compounded their difficulties.
The fire, which started on November 8 at a campfire site in northern California, has snuffed out at least 84 lives, razed as many as 9,000-plus homes, scorched around 150,000 acres of land, and has forced tens of thousands of people to abandon their homes and flee to safety.
President Donald Trump continues to be obstinate in his views on climate change, downplaying its role in making California increasingly prone to such wildfires.
He has, instead, laid the blame squarely on forest officials, accusing them of “gross mismanagement.”
He surprised nobody when he replied with an emphatic “No” on being asked if the California fire had changed his mind about climate change – what else can you expect from a man who thinks climate change is a big “hoax.”
“When there are daily images of California burning up it’s hard for the administration to argue climate change isn’t happening,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a climate scientist at Princeton University.
“The strategy seems to be let sleeping dogs lie and hope the public doesn’t pay much attention to it,” Oppenheimer noted, hitting the nail on the head.
The report notes that the severity of the consequences of climate change will depend, to a large extent, on the actions taken now to check greenhouse gas emissions and the way we adapt to the changes that are bound to occur.
As mentioned, more and more Americans are waking up to the risks they are faced with and despite the fact that they’ve begun to actively find solutions, “climate-related risks will continue to grow without additional action,” says the report.
Here are some of the noteworthy efforts that are already underway.
Water managers in the drought-hit Colorado have launched a water-conservation movement in the Colorado River Basin.
Authorities in Hawaii are adopting measures to “promote coral reef recovery from widespread bleaching events caused by warmer waters that threaten tourism, fisheries, and coastal protection from wind and waves.”
Local authorities in southern Louisiana have formed a hazard-reduction fund to fight flooding from heavy rainfall.
States in the Northeast have begun investing toward a more robust water, energy, and transportation infrastructure, in addition to developing adaptation strategies to combat the effects of increasing wildfires on human health, water resources, timber production, fish and wildlife, and recreation.
“In Alaska, a tribal health organization is developing adaptation strategies to address physical and mental health challenges driven by climate change and other environmental changes.”
Farmers in the Midwest are introducing modern management strategies to fight precipitation-related erosion and nutrient losses.
The death and devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, largely attributed to a warmer atmosphere and warmer and higher seas, have mobilized communities in Texas to build a more “resilient infrastructure.”
“Decisions made today determine risk exposure for current and future generations and will either broaden or limit options to reduce the negative consequences of climate change,” observes the report.
“While Americans are responding in ways that can bolster resilience and improve livelihoods, neither global efforts to mitigate the causes of climate change nor regional efforts to adapt to the impacts currently approach the scales needed to avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades,” the report further notes.
According to the NCA summary findings, the growing risks of climate change can impact various aspects of the American way of life.
Not only does climate change create new risks, but it also “exacerbates existing vulnerabilities” as communities across the country are learning the hard way.
The threat to human health, safety, quality of life, and economic well-being is not only clear and present, but it is also increasing at an alarming rate, too.
If enough is not done in terms of “global mitigation and regional adaptation efforts” climate change is going to inflict heavy losses on American infrastructure and property, considerably slowing down economic progress in times to come, possibly starting in the immediate future.
Enough and quality water is essential to sustain people as well as ecosystems, which is becoming increasingly vulnerable to climate change.
Water resources across the country are at serious risk, which in turn increases “risks and costs to agriculture, energy production, industry, recreation, and the environment.”
Climate change is the major culprit behind extreme weather, deteriorating air quality, disease-carrying insects and pests, contaminated food and water, all of which pose a major threat to the health of the American people, especially communities that are already vulnerable.
Also at risk are the country’s indigenous peoples, oceans, coastal areas, agriculture, infrastructure, recreation and tourism, as well as ecosystems and ecosystem services.
To sum it up, the overwhelming evidence that human-caused climate change is impacting the lives of Americans is undeniable, and so is the fact that the threat to the physical, social, and economic well-being of the people is growing.
However, “how much they intensify will depend on actions taken to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the risks from climate change now and in the coming decades,” concludes the NCA report.