An important new report released this week has revealed that the United States is being severely affected by human-induced climate change across the whole of the nation.
The report, entitled the National Climate Assessment, was compiled by a large panel of experts who were selected to represent a fair cross section of the American population, including scientists and oil company delegates. Two similar reports have been composed over the past fourteen years, but this latest version is the most earnest in its warnings of impending climatic catastrophe.
It describes how extremes of weather across the country are becoming more pronounced, with heat-waves exacerbating droughts and wildfires in hot and dry areas, and a marked rise in torrential rains that have left wetter areas disappearing under torrents of rain and floodwaters. Severe weather killed 38 people across several states in the United States during the month of April alone. The new conditions are also allowing insects to proliferate and attack crops and trees, seriously threatening the environment and food supplies. Glaciers in Alaska are disappearing, causing sea levels to rise and whole communities to retreat inland.
The report makes it clear that the situation is serious and the effects are with us now, not at some point in the distant future.
“Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present,” an excerpt reads.
"Summers are longer and hotter, and extended periods of unusual heat last longer than any living American has ever experienced.
"Winters are generally shorter and warmer. Rain comes in heavier downpours. People are seeing changes in the length and severity of seasonal allergies, the plant varieties that thrive in their gardens, and the kinds of birds they see in any particular month in their neighborhoods.”
The dramatic variations in the weather have so far been caused by an average temperature increase over the whole country of just 2 degrees Fahrenheit, yet if levels of the so-called "greenhouse gases" such as carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere continue to rise, the temperature increase across North America could reach 10 degrees by the end of the century. If such a marginal warming of 2 degrees is already having such a powerful effect on the U.S. climate, then a 10 degree increase could potentially have catastrophic consequences. The report also cautioned that global sea levels could rise by as much as six feet (1.8m), a situation that would be felt keenly along the East coast where land is already sinking.
The White House, which released the report, has given the its full approval, with President Obama commenting: “This is not some distant problem of the future. This is a problem that is affecting Americans right now. Whether it means increased flooding, greater vulnerability to drought, more severe wildfires — all these things are having an impact on Americans as we speak.”
The government want to use the report to inspire a sense of urgency in American citizens so that the consequences of global warming are fully appreciated and understood by all, and to prepare the population for radical new climate change regulations that are proposed for June this year.
“I think this National Climate Assessment is the loudest and clearest alarm bell to date signalling the need to take urgent action to combat the threats to Americans from climate change,” John Holdren, the White House science advisor, told a conference call with reporters.
The government is hoping that the new report will highlight the unpredictability of the global warming phenomenon, emphasizing the fact that the associated effects will not manifest at a steady rate, or in the same way in every area. Severely cold winters will still continue, with some areas even cooling rather than warming, as illustrated in south Alabama; northern areas, however, do seem to be suffering a rapid onset of climatic changes.
The report did indicate some short-term benefits of global warming in certain areas, such as longer crop-growing seasons in the Midwest and a longer shipping season on the Great Lakes, but in the long-term, it suggested that these benefits will be far outweighed by injurious effects elsewhere.
“Climate change is already here,” said Richard B. Alley, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University who was not involved in writing the report. “But the costs so far are still on the low side compared to what will be coming under business as usual by late in this century.”
Global warming ultimately affects the whole planet and not just isolated areas, but there is a certain irony in these visible signs of occurring across the United States, as the country was originally one of the major greenhouse gas producers on the planet. That title has now been given to China, though this does not mean that U.S. emissions have necessarily decreased, they have just been superseded by increased emissions from the industrial explosion currently taking place in China. That being said, the per capita emission levels in China are still below those of the U.S. population.
Overall, the report warned that too little is being done in North America to combat human-induced climate change.
“There is mounting evidence that harm to the nation will increase substantially in the future unless global emissions of heat-trapping gases are greatly reduced,” it stated.
The Chinese curse "May you live in interesting times" must surely have been brought down upon all those inhabiting this glorious planet at this time, as the world is currently in a major state of flux. Unless we make major changes in our lifestyles in an attempt to halt the progression of global warming, our future looks even more "interesting."
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