This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

June 17, 2009

Reports: Climate Change is Already Impacting the United States and the World

Climate change is already having visible impacts on the United States, and the choices made now will determine the severity of future impacts, according to a federal report released on June 16. The report, "Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States," finds that Americans are already being affected through increases in extreme weather, droughts, and wildfires caused by climate change. The future could hold more frequent and intense heat waves, increased heavy downpours, reduced summer runoff, increasing insect infestations, more wildfires, an increasingly acidic ocean, and local sea-level rises of more than three feet. These climate changes could disrupt energy, water, and transportation systems; hurt crop and livestock production, fisheries, and tourism; increasingly threaten coastal homes and infrastructure, while losing coastal land to rising seas; and harm human health. The report also examines climate change impacts by sector and region. A product of the interagency U.S. Global Change Research Program, the report notes that implementing sizable and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible would significantly reduce the pace and overall amount of climate change. See the press release from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the report Web page.

The new study is in line with recent reports that tackle the climate change issue on the global scale, in some cases finding even more drastic impacts. A report from the National Science Foundation (NSF) found signs of a changing climate in nearly every part of the globe, from the icy polar regions to Earth's equatorial ecosystems. A report from "The Lancet" and the University College London (UCL) declared climate change as the biggest health threat of this century, because of its impacts on heat waves, disease transmission, and the security of food, water, and sanitation. That conclusion is backed up by a report from the Global Humanitarian Forum (GHF), which found that climate change currently accounts for 300,000 deaths per year, and by 2030, that number could rise to a half million people per year. The report also finds that climate change impacts the lives of 325 million people today, causing economic losses of $125 billion per year, and by 2030, it could affect more than twice as many people at nearly triple the economic cost, reaching $340 billion annually. Part of that impact on people's lives is the need to flee rising seas, floods, and drought areas, and a new report from Columbia University, the United Nations University, and CARE International finds that such displacements are already underway. The report cites other studies indicating that 25-50 million people could be displaced by 2010, and that number could rise to nearly 700 million people by 2050. See the NSF press release, report Web site, and Web page for the report PDF files; the UCL press release, which links to the full report; the GHF press release and full report (PDF 2.6 MB); and the Columbia University press release, which links to the full report. Download Adobe Reader.