Here’s what you need to know about the devastating U.S. climate change report
On Friday, the U.S. government released a report on what effect climate change may have on the country in the future, and it depicted a devastating picture.
The report, called the Fourth National Climate Assessment Volume II, said that climate change will cost the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century, cause major infrastructure damage and disproportionately affect the poor.
The Congressionally-mandated report was written with the help of more than a dozen U.S. government agencies and departments, and gave a detailed look that projected the impact of climate change in every corner of American society.
Here is what you need to know from the report:
The report says that rising temperatures, sea-level rise and extreme weather events are expected to increasingly disrupt and damage critical U.S. infrastructure and the ability for labour to be productive.
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It singles out economies and industries that depend on natural resources and favourable climate conditions, such as agriculture, tourism and fisheries, as particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
Rising temperatures from climate change will also lessen the efficiency of power generation while increasing energy demands, which will result in higher electricity costs, the report says.
The effects of climate change beyond the U.S.’s border will also affect the country’s economy because of businesses with overseas operations and supply chains.
Overall, the annual losses in some economic sectors are predicted to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century, which the report notes is “more than the current gross domestic product (GDP) of many U.S. states.”
The report details the health risks that climate change poses, such as increasing air quality risks due to wildfire and ground-level ozone pollution.
Rising air and water temperatures and more extreme weather events are also expected to increase exposure to waterborne and foodborne diseases, the report said, which will affect food and water safety.
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With increasing temperatures also comes a higher number of heat-related deaths, as well as more allergic illnesses, such as asthma and hay fever.
Climate change is also projected to alter the distribution of disease-carrying insects and pests, which will expose more people to ticks carrying Lyme disease and mosquitoes with viruses such as Zika, West Nile and dengue fever.
Older adults, children, low-income communities and some communities of colour will be disproportionately affected and less able to handle the health impacts of climate change, the report predicts.
Climate change and extreme weather are expected to increasingly disrupt the U.S.’s energy and transportation systems, causing more frequent and longer-lasting power outages, fuel shortages and service disruptions that could have impacts on other critical sectors, according to the report.
America’s coastal properties are also threatened due to the rising sea level, and aging infrastructure in the northeast is expected to have trouble dealing with high tides and flooding.
Expected increases in heavy rain will affect inland infrastructure across the country, including access to roads, bridge stability and the safety of pipelines.
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An increased risk of drought will threaten oil and gas drilling and refining, according to the report, as well as electricity generation from power plants that need surface water for cooling.
The report warns that impacts on one system can result in “increased risks or failures in other critical systems, including water resources, food production and distribution, and energy and transportation” because they are all interconnected.
“The full extent of climate change risks to interconnected systems, many of which span regional and national boundaries, is often greater than the sum of risks to individual sectors,” the report said.
Agriculture and water
Overall, yields from major U.S. crops are expected to decline as a result of increases in temperatures, possible changes in water availability, and disease and pest outbreaks.
Increases in temperatures during the growing season in the Midwest will be the largest contributing factor to declines in productivity of U.S. agriculture, the report says.
Concerning water, the report says dependable and safe water supplies for the U.S. Caribbean, Hawaii and U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Island communities are threatened by drought, flooding and saltwater contamination due to sea-level rise.
Future warming will also add stress to water supplies and “adversely” impact the availability of water in parts of the U.S. Changes in the amounts of snow and rainfall will lead to mismatches between water availability and needs in some regions, the report says.
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