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Promoting Science-Based Management of Wisconsin's Natural Resources

New Federal Report Predicts Increasing Environmental and Ecological Costs due to Climate Change in the United States.

Mike Meyer, December 21, 2018

Fouth-National-Climate-Assessment

Climate change presents growing challenges to human health and safety, quality of life, and the rate of economic growth in the United States.  On November 24, 2018 the US Global Change Research Project released the FOURTH NATIONAL CLIMATE ASSESSMENT Volume II: Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States.  The National Climate Assessment (NCA) assesses the science of climate change and variability and its impacts across the United States, now and throughout this century. The report is available at   https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/.  Below are the summary take-aways from the 4th Assessment:

1. Communities

Climate change creates new risks and exacerbates existing vulnerabilities in communities across the United States, presenting growing challenges to human health and safety, quality of life, and the rate of economic growth.

2. Economy

Without substantial and sustained global mitigation and regional adaptation efforts, climate change is expected to cause growing losses to American infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century.

3. Interconnected Impacts

Climate change affects the natural, built, and social systems we rely on individually and through their connections to one another. These interconnected systems are increasingly vulnerable to cascading impacts that are often difficult to predict, threatening essential services within and beyond the Nation’s borders.

4. Actions to Reduce Risks

Communities, governments, and businesses are working to reduce risks from and costs associated with climate change by taking action to lower greenhouse gas emissions and implement adaptation strategies. While mitigation and adaptation efforts have expanded substantially in the last four years, they do not yet approach the scale considered necessary to avoid substantial damages to the economy, environment, and human health over the coming decades.

5. Water

The quality and quantity of water available for use by people and ecosystems across the country are being affected by climate change, increasing risks and costs to agriculture, energy production, industry, recreation, and the environment.

6. Health

Impacts from climate change on extreme weather and climate-related events, air quality, and the transmission of disease through insects and pests, food, and water increasingly threaten the health and well-being of the American people, particularly populations that are already vulnerable.

7. Indigenous Peoples

Climate change increasingly threatens Indigenous communities’ livelihoods, economies, health, and cultural identities by disrupting interconnected social, physical, and ecological systems.

8. Ecosystems and Ecosystem Services

Ecosystems and the benefits they provide to society are being altered by climate change, and these impacts are projected to continue. Without substantial and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions, transformative impacts on some ecosystems will occur; some coral reef and sea ice ecosystems are already experiencing such transformational changes.

9. Agriculture

Rising temperatures, extreme heat, drought, wildfire on rangelands, and heavy downpours are expected to increasingly disrupt agricultural productivity in the United States. Expected increases in challenges to livestock health, declines in crop yields and quality, and changes in extreme events in the United States and abroad threaten rural livelihoods, sustainable food security, and price stability.

10. Infrastructure

Our Nation’s aging and deteriorating infrastructure is further stressed by increases in heavy precipitation events, coastal flooding, heat, wildfires, and other extreme events, as well as changes to average precipitation and temperature. Without adaptation, climate change will continue to degrade infrastructure performance over the rest of the century, with the potential for cascading impacts that threaten our economy, national security, essential services, and health and well-being. 

11. Tourism and Recreation

Outdoor recreation, tourist economies, and quality of life are reliant on benefits provided by our natural environment that will be degraded by the impacts of climate change in many ways.

But despite its ominous predictions, the report gives us reasons for hope.

Andrew Light, a senior fellow at the World Resources Institute, worked on the chapter of the report that focuses on mitigation and highlights examples of effective action being taken to lower climate risks.

“The mitigation measures are there, they’re achievable, they could actually produce impacts – that’s clearly in the report,” he told Business Insider. “What’s also in the report is that there are lots and lots and lots of very successful pilot programs on adaptation that have come out. The issue now is whether we get the leadership we need to get the rest of the country to follow those examples.”

Beyond government action, there are market forces at work now as well. Light said “There is abundant evidence that this is not a negative-cost proposition, that you can make tons of money, that there is a growing and increasing market for getting on the right side of pricing the pollution and then selling the alternatives to high-carbon energy sources.” 

For more information see https://www.businessinsider.com/climate-report-scary-conclusions-and-reason-for-hope-2018-11.

Mike Meyer is Chair of Wisconsin Green Fire’s Climate Change Work Group

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