The Fourth National Climate Assessment

Photo: Hurricane damage in Florida


Friday afternoon the government released its Fourth National Climate Assessment, mandated by Congress. Friday afternoon of the four-day weekend, of course, is a good time to bury it. But we’ve become accustomed to these tactics, and the report did not go unnoticed.

Thirteen government agencies contributed. The report looks solid, an indication that Donald Trump and his climate deniers couldn’t mess with the agencies’ mandates. This is a pattern that has shown up before in sanctions against Russia. Trump tweets one thing, his political appointees toe his line, and the agencies do their job. It’s encouraging that parts of the government can do their jobs.

Unfortunately, the report is written in relatively difficult language, so it’s slow going. Here are the summary findings.

Communities. Climate change creates new risks and exacerbates existing vulnerabilities in communities across the United States, presenting growing challenges to human health and safety, quality of life, and the rate of economic growth.

Economy. Without substantial and sustained global mitigation and regional adaptation efforts, climate change is expected to cause growing losses to American infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century.

Interconnected Impacts. Climate change affects the natural, built, and social systems we rely on individually and through their connections to one another. These interconnected systems are increasingly vulnerable to cascading impacts that are often difficult to predict, threatening essential services within and beyond the Nation’s borders.

Actions to Reduce Risks. Communities, governments, and businesses are working to reduce risks from and costs associated with climate change by taking action to lower greenhouse gas emissions and implement adaptation strategies. While mitigation and adaptation efforts have expanded substantially in the last four years, they do not yet approach the scale considered necessary to avoid substantial damages to the economy, environment, and human health over the coming decades.

Water. The quality and quantity of water available for use by people and ecosystems across the country are being affected by climate change, increasing risks and costs to agriculture, energy production, industry, recreation, and the environment.

Health. Impacts from climate change on extreme weather and climate-related events, air quality, and the transmission of disease through insects and pests, food, and water increasingly threaten the health and well-being of the American people, particularly populations that are already vulnerable.

Indigenous Peoples. Climate change increasingly threatens Indigenous communities’ livelihoods, economies, health, and cultural identities by disrupting interconnected social, physical, and ecological systems.

Ecosystems and Ecosystem Services. Ecosystems and the benefits they provide to society are being altered by climate change, and these impacts are projected to continue. Without substantial and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions, transformative impacts on some ecosystems will occur; some coral reef and sea ice ecosystems are already experiencing such transformational changes.

Agriculture. Rising temperatures, extreme heat, drought, wildfire on rangelands, and heavy downpours are expected to increasingly disrupt agricultural productivity in the United States. Expected increases in challenges to livestock health, declines in crop yields and quality, and changes in extreme events in the United States and abroad threaten rural livelihoods, sustainable food security, and price stability.

Infrastructure. Our Nation’s aging and deteriorating infrastructure is further stressed by increases in heavy precipitation events, coastal flooding, heat, wildfires, and other extreme events, as well as changes to average precipitation and temperature. Without adaptation, climate change will continue to degrade infrastructure performance over the rest of the century, with the potential for cascading impacts that threaten our economy, national security, essential services, and health and well-being.

Oceans & Coasts. Coastal communities and the ecosystems that support them are increasingly threatened by the impacts of climate change. Without significant reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions and regional adaptation measures, many coastal regions will be transformed by the latter part of this century, with impacts affecting other regions and sectors. Even in a future with lower greenhouse gas emissions, many communities are expected to suffer financial impacts as chronic high-tide flooding leads to higher costs and lower property values.

Tourism and Recreation. Outdoor recreation, tourist economies, and quality of life are reliant on benefits provided by our natural environment that will be degraded by the impacts of climate change in many ways.

There’s not much surprising, although changes seem to be taking place more rapidly than anyone expected.

The New York Times, Washington Post, and AP all have pretty good summaries.



35 replies
  1. 1
    wasabi gasp says:

    What can we do to stop this? The reporting, that is.

  2. 2
    JPL says:

    Ben Sasse on climate change. mediaite link
    The 2020 election is our last best hope.

  3. 3
    Eljai says:

    @JPL: I haven’t clicked on the link yet, but may I just say that Ben Sasse is a colossal fraud.

  4. 4

    @Eljai: You don’t have to click – you’ve got it!

  5. 5
    pat says:

    Jimmy Carter installed solar collectors on the roof of the White House.

    Reagan took them down.

    The beginning of the end.

  6. 6
    Fair Economist says:

    There’s not much surprising, although changes seem to be taking place more rapidly than anyone expected.

    I think this is an unanticipated side effect of the intense denialist resistance to the reality of climate change. Science papers tend to be conservative predicting effects because they are subject to savage attacks if every potential harm is not accompanied by ironclad evidence. The result is that the science has chronically *under*estimated the harms and the speed with which they are coming.

  7. 7
    Litlebritdifrnt says:

    I saw a tweet today that basically linked Twitler’s deregulation of water used in farms directly to the contamination of romaine lettuces. His policies are killing people and no none seems to care. It is insane.

  8. 8
    Pete says:

    Worth noting: the report is huge and dense but they also provide PowerPoint versions of each chapter. The minimal required reading for any President. But noooooo.

  9. 9
    WaterGirl says:

    @JPL: I had never seen Ben Sasse until last week, but I had a vague sense that he was a democrat.

    Then I saw him on Stephen Colbert and saw what an awful mealy-mouthed person he was His stupid book is all about what the problem with politics is, and it apparently has nothing at all to do with hate and violence and racism and having Republicans in office whose only allegiance is to party. I was watching in bed, and I finally googled him in the dark from my phone — thank god he is not a Democrat.

    But The Google said Democrats are hoping he will switch over to the Ds. Does anybody seriously like this guy? Or think he has anything to offer? He seemed like the Jeff Flake of Jeff Flakes, only worse somehow.

  10. 10
    JPL says:

    @WaterGirl: I didn’t even watch the clip with Wallace, but I did read about the segment. Sasse needs to be told that we have passed the alarmist stage and his ignorance is one of the reasons why.

  11. 11
    Yarrow says:

    Republicans, conservatives, oligarchs, etc. are in the process of moving from “Global warming/climate change isn’t real” to “There’s nothing we can do about it.” I continue to expect massive pushback on doing anything from all of those groups.

  12. 12
    Bill Arnold says:

    @Fair Economist:

    Science papers tend to be conservative predicting effects because they are subject to savage attacks if every potential harm is not accompanied by ironclad evidence.

    Climate science papers are often terrifying, if you read them carefully. The authors put on their scientist masks[0] because that’s how science is done but you can feel the fear[1] in a lot of the papers, especially in the last several years. And more recently, some papers have been a little more overtly political.
    [0] Ghostbusters – Don’t Cross The Streams – Why? – It would be bad. (@47s)
    [1] Of global catastrophes, not so much (e.g.) loss of funding or scary wingnuts.

  13. 13
    Citizen Alan says:

    They’re going to kill us all aren’t they? The conservatives are literally going to murder the entire human race for no reason except to piss off liberals.

  14. 14
    JPL says:

    @Citizen Alan: Those in office are lining their pockets with blood money from the Koch’s and others. Pissing off liberals is just an added bonus.

  15. 15
    Citizen_X says:

    @JPL: Huh. Well, good on Chris Wallace for bringing it up, and for pressing him on it.

  16. 16
    trollhattan says:

    He’s today’s Huckabee–with his “Oh, gosh” Midwest persona, Great Concern over the lack of civility (hey, what party are you a member of, again?) and a very active booker placing him in front of every camera everywhere, not just at Fox. Do not know whether he plays bass.

    Read a vastly depressing article in today’s paper about how very many coal power plants are under construction and contract. Maybe China is slowing down but Chinese industry is busy building them everywhere else.

    So screwed, we are.

  17. 17
    Jay says:

    I was reading a Canadian blog on the report, did a little googling and discovered that:

    In 2018, 34% of Canadian’s don’t believe in Climate Change and 45% believe that the Carbon Tax is just a cash grab.

    In 2012, 89% of Canadians believed in Climate Change and that immediate action was required.

    Wonder how that happened.

  18. 18
    sharl says:

    @Eljai: That seems to be a growing consensus on Sasse, though it ain’t growing fast enough in my opinion.

    Charles P. Pierce @CharlesPPierce

    I highly recommend this thread before the Sasse For Wise Man bandwagon really gets rolling. Remember — Paul Ryan was the Great Conservative Intellect and, before him, it was Newt Gingrich.(link)

    Ari Kohen

    Nebraskan here. Nothing makes me crazier than the Ben Sasse hagiography that happens every few months. It’s the best indication we have of the way that mediated versions of people have replaced who they actually *are*. You want to know who Sasse is? Come to Nebraska & ask around. (link)

    Prof. Kohen’s tweet leads off a fairly lengthy thread in which he defends his position, and is joined by other self-described Nebraskans who agree with his opinion on Sasse.

  19. 19
    Kelly says:

    @Citizen Alan:

    They’re going to kill us all aren’t they?

    My youngest is an municipal emergency services manager in the SF Bay Area. Friday they sent him to Paradise, CA to coordinate damage assessment and search for the dead.

  20. 20
    japa21 says:

    Blizzard warnings throughout the Midwest, up to 12″ of snow to fall today-tomorrow in the Chicago area. Obviously this global warming stuff is a bunch of crap. You libtards are always moaning ad complaining.

    At least I expect to hear that from some denialists. The ability to understand how the changes in climate impact weather is sorely lacking.

    Several years ago I was listening to Thom Hartmann interview a member of Imhoffe’s staff who was tasked with proving global warming was a hoax. One of the things he pointed to was that Greenland was experiencing increased snowfall. I was disappointed that Hartmann did not point out that is actually evidence of warming, as warmer air contains more moisture, thus leading to increased snowfall. It is bad when even people on our side screw up the explanations.

  21. 21
    germy says:

    Why do they call them “regulations” ? They’re protections.

    "…six months before people were sickened by the contaminated romaine, President Donald Trump’s FDA – responding to pressure from the farm industry and Trump’s order to eliminate regulations – shelved the water-testing rules for at least four years."— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) November 25, 2018

  22. 22
  23. 23
    JPL says:

    @Kelly: Give your youngest a virtual hug, because it’s such an important job, no matter how sad.

  24. 24
    wvng says:

    One thing that doesn’t get nearly enough attention is that the scale of disasters and disruptions we are seeing now would be with us for a millennium if we stopped emitting fossil carbon today, because the excess CO2 that has been absorbed by the oceans would slowly be released , keeping current atmospheric levels where they are now (based on a paper that came out a decade ago). Actually it’s much worse than that because of all the feedback loops that are in effect. There is just so much damage that is baked in now – no matter what we do – it is quite horrifying.

  25. 25
    Kelly says:

    @JPL: Thank you I did. He’s only been on the job a little over a year. It’s the sort of thing he wanted to do as a child and a teen. He went for a very practical business degree then MBA Big Corp executive track. Ditched it for this as his 40th birthday loomed.

  26. 26
    trollhattan says:

    As though the looming Arctic and subarctic methane releases weren’t enough to rob what’s left of our sleep….

  27. 27
    eclare says:

    @WaterGirl: No, and he man spread like crazy. The Rethugs can keep him.

  28. 28
    WaterGirl says:

    @eclare: I think there might be an autocorrect in there somewhere, but your final sentence is quite clear.

    He seems like one of those empty vessels who teaks without actually saying anything. Color me unimpressed. Or impressed, just not in the positive direction.

    Pretty sure he will be running, though, because he has a book out. Ugh.

  29. 29
    J R in WV says:


    “No, and he man spread like crazy.”

    I mostly come here for the humor!!!

    And the terror, also, too!

  30. 30
    MagdaInBlack says:

    And….it’s snowing in Arlington Heights.
    Looking forward to that 25 mile commute in the morning.
    Stay warm. Nurse that cold.

  31. 31
    prostratedragon says:

    @MagdaInBlack: Wow. Nothing here yet near Oakwood Blvd, but the wind just picked up.

  32. 32
    japa21 says:

    @MagdaInBlack: Just starting to turn to snow in Hoffman Estates. Earlier than they were predicting. Bah.

  33. 33
    Kent says:

    Ben Sasse is a GIANT tool. Earlier this year he burned up a lot of bandwidth bemoaning the fact that judicial confirmations have gotten so politicized recently. When it was his vote to abandon the 60 vote threshold for supreme court nominations that made the Cavanaugh fiasco happen. If Sasse and one other Senator like Collins had decided not to repeal the fillibuster for Supreme Court nominations then Trump would have been forced to find a nominee moderate enough to gain at least 8 Democratic votes. There are dozens if not hundreds of mainstream conservative justices that would have easily met that test. He is the worst kind of tool. He likes to wring his hands about everything that McConnell does but ends up voting with him 100% of the time anyway. Fuck him.

  34. 34
    Kent says:

    By the way, horrific and sobering article in the NYT about supposed good intentions gone wrong during the Bush and Obama administrations regarding palm oil and the environmental catastrophe that has resulted from US policy on renewable fuels.

    EDIT: I see that was covered in the previous thread. That’s what happens when I read Balloon Juice from newest to oldest.

  35. 35
    E. says:

    Step 1: The climate is not changing, don’t be a fool.
    Step 2: The climate is changing, but it’s natural, it’s always changed you idiot.
    Step 3: The climate is changing, and humans have something to do with it, but this is a good thing you alarmist.
    Step 4: The climate is changing, humans are doing it, and only the oil companies have the technical know-how to fix it, which they will do for us if we pay them enough.
    Step 5: I’m in my New Zealand hideaway, you can GFY.

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