The Climate Report

Nov. 28, 2018

A topic of conversation around our office—and very likely around yours—is the climate report released the day after Thanksgiving. At more than 1,600 pages, it’s the second volume of the National Climate Assessment, released by a team of 13 federal agencies; the first volume was released last year. The federal government is required to produce the assessment every four years.

This most recent report agrees in many respects with the previous 2014 assessment, but it is much more specific in terms of the potential economic effects. It warns that, unless something changes in the meantime, climate change could reduce the US gross domestic product by one-tenth by 2100. Specifically, as this New York Times article summarizes, that includes “$141 billion from heat-related deaths, $118 billion from sea level rise, and $32 billion from infrastructure damage by the end of the century.”

The report predicts, among other effects, the eventual need to abandon some coastal properties because of coastal inundation, and more frequent and intense wildfires—about twice the area has burned in the last three and a half decades than would have been the case without the increased heat and drought caused by climate change. It also cites extreme weather events around the world as a factor that will harm US trade and supply chains.

There are many different ways to approach the material in the report—by concentrating on what needs to be done, on what we’re not doing, or on what the effects will be on the environment, human health (everything from tainted drinking water to heat-related deaths to increased populations of disease-carrying insects), or the economy. The last full report, in 2014, spurred some changes such as the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. Given that the current administration has been pursuing policies of environmental deregulation, do you think the new report’s stronger emphasis on economic consequences will have an effect on policy decisions going forward?

You can find the report (and a link to volume 1) online here. Chapter 3, Water, includes some interesting discussion of changing weather patterns, the state of major US aquifers, and a discussion of the state of water infrastructure. The report also includes regional breakdowns on the effects of climate change.

About the Author

Janice Kaspersen

Janice Kaspersen is the former editor of Erosion Control and Stormwater magazines.