Draft National Climate Assessment Report Available for Public Review

A long-awaited report on how climate change is affecting the United States will be released for public review on Monday, January 14. The Third National Climate Assessment is the most comprehensive review of U.S. climate impacts to date. It includes analyses for specific regions and sectors of national relevance, from agriculture to health to transportation. This report, and the expansive analyses on which it is based, will be invaluable for informing climate-relevant decisions. During the next three months, the NCA is welcoming comments on the draft. In addition, they are organizing several town halls around the country, at which report authors will share findings and invite input from interested parties. The report will be finalized and delivered to Congress in early 2014.

What’s in the report?

Today, I had a chance to see the draft at a public meeting of the federal advisory committee overseeing the report development. Some initial, big-picture reactions:

  • The report clearly and strongly reaffirms the findings of past climate assessments: we are seeing climate change now and the cause is primarily the burning of fossil fuels.  It notes that these conclusions are buttressed by new evidence and repeated scrutiny of existing data.
  • The report includes detailed and definitive information about climate impacts, some of which are increasing. It points out that all Americans are experiencing climate change, an important recognition that this is a problem we are facing here and now.
  • The projections of possible future climate change make it clear that our choices about carbon emissions will have a significant effect on the magnitude of impacts. In particular, in order to reduce emissions to the levels that the global community has agreed is necessary to avoid most serious impacts, we need to stabilize and reduce global emissions within a few years. For the US to accomplish this, additional policies will be needed.  Existing efforts are not even close to what is needed.
  • Responses to climate change—both slowing emissions of carbon pollution (what climate scientists call “mitigation”) and efforts to respond to and prepare for unavoidable climate impacts (“climate adaptation”)—are examined in detail for the first time in this third assessment report. This is an important step in the right direction, recognizing that the National Climate Assessment needs to more directly address the questions of decision makers. It states that current actions are not sufficient to meet the challenges facing us today.

In short, this draft report reinforces the certainty within the scientific community that the climate is changing and makes a compelling case that significant and urgent action is needed to address the root causes.

How can you get involved?

Wildlife across the country will be impacted by climate change, according to a new draft National Climate Assessment. Photo by William Wiley.
During the 90-day public review period, you can share your thoughts about the report with the authors and federal agencies who are preparing the report. What aspects of the report are done well and particularly useful to you? Are there important climate impacts missing from the report? Are there parts of the report that are confusing? Are there ways that the information could better serve your needs? Let the NCA know by filling out the on-line comment form. If you live near one of the following places, attend a town hall. These events will be a chance for you to interact directly with report authors and others in your community who are actively grappling with climate change.

  • San Diego, CA – January 18, 2013. More information here.
  • Syracuse, NY – January 23, 2013. More information here.
  • Lincoln, NE – February 4, 2013. More information here.
  • Anchorage, AK – February 5, 2013. As a part of Alaska Forum on the Environment, register here.
  • Ann Arbor, MI – February 12, 2013. More information here.
  • Tampa, FL – February 19, 2013. More information here.
  • Portland, OR – March 12, 2013. More information here.

And, last but not least, let President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency know that you support efforts to curb carbon pollution from power plants. Send a message today voicing your concern that the latest science demands that we take action.