Should You Care About the National Climate Assessment? Yes, and Here's Why.
*image from Grist
Extreme weather events such as heat waves, floods, and droughts have all become more frequent and intense. Over the past 30 years, the U.S. experienced hundreds of weather disasters that have each cost at LEAST one billion dollars. States in the Southeast have seen upwards of 40 such disasters.
These stats and more are included in the 2013 National Climate Assessment (NCA) Draft released last Friday. Although you'll hear plenty of emphasis that this is a *draft* and not the final version, the NCA is pretty reputable - the report is commissioned by the Global Change Research Act of 1990 and was authored by an advisory committee of 60 scientists and experts.
Grist has a great visual of some of the most alarming statistics from the report, but here are some that especially stand out:
- The U.S. average temperature has increased by about 1.5°F since record keeping began in 1895, and more than 80% of this increase has occurred since 1980.
- Since reliable record keeping began in 1880, global sea level has risen by about 8 inches.
- Oceans currently absorbe about a fourth of annual carbon dioxide emissions, which makes them more acidic and thus increasingly threatens the ecosystems they support.
As the report itself explains, "Climate change threatens human health and well-being in many ways, including impacts from increased extreme weather events, wildfire, decreased air quality, diseases transmitted by insects, food, and water, and threats to mental health."
The good news? Since the last assessment came out in 2009, Americans have started to see climate change as a daily concern that impacts their day-to-day lives. Even if there hasn't been much concrete progress in terms of drastically reducing emissions and preparing for worst-case scenarios, the reality of the situation is starting to hit home.
So. What does this mean for us, here at WeArePowerShift? I like to think that more Americans are concerned about climate change not just because they're seeing the impacts in their own communities but because of everyone out there working so hard to stop the extraction of fossil fuels and work to pass strong, ambitious climate policy. Of course you could take a more depressing view - the report shows us to be on track for some disenheartening scenarios - but there are some bright spots out there, too. Here: if you want to read about the silver lining, check out this piece by Chris Mooney over at MotherJones. And, here's a cool video by Climate Access about communicating the impacts of climate change.