The impacts of human-caused climate change are far-reaching and getting worse across every region of the United States. That’s according to the Fifth National Climate Assessment, hailed by President Biden as “the most comprehensive assessment on the state of climate change in the history of America.” While progress has been made, the report emphasizes the need for urgent and transformative action to address future climate risks.
The Good News
National efforts to mitigate the effects of a changing climate have expanded since 2018, reducing greenhouse gas emissions since their 2007 peak despite a growing population and economy.
The Bad News
However, the report warns that the impacts of climate change will continue to intensify over the next decade, even if greenhouse gas emissions fall substantially. It highlights how all U.S. regions are already experiencing the devastating effects of changing and extreme weather, including costly damage to critical infrastructure, shifting distributions of coastal and marine species and habitats and increased economic losses to farmers and ranchers.
The Way Forward
While current solutions can deliver substantial reductions in emissions, according to the National Climate Assessment, “limiting global temperature change to well below 2°C (3.6°F) requires reaching net-zero CO2 emissions globally by 2050 and net-zero emissions of all greenhouse gases from human activities within the following few decades. ”That means exploring additional mitigation options that bring fundamental shifts in systems, values and practices and deliver transformative adaptation.
“How much more the world warms, depends on the choices societies make today,” states the report. “The future is in human hands.”
The fifth National Climate Assessment was developed in partnership with 14 federal agencies and 750 authors and experts.