A Clear-Eyed Assessment Of Climate Disruption

BY ON February 11, 2013

image of earth as face

With dozens of states recovering from Sandy, Nemo, tornadoes, and other extreme weather, a new report out last month provides a clear-eyed assessment of what our nation has in store if it doesn’t address climate disruption now.

Last month, an interagency task force released a draft of the Third National Climate Assessment. Written by 240 contributing scientists, and the result of a collaboration among 13 federal agencies, the draft Assessment is now open for public comment.

According to Joe Romm from Climate Progress. this National Climate Assessment will become the “primary official reference for the immediate critical period” of the next few years, when we chart our course toward global climate meltdown – or take bold steps to halt the devastating change in our atmosphere that we are unleashing. Although the report does not make policy recommendations, it is impossible to read the draft Assessment and not feel that policy change is essential to our well-being and future survival.

To take this report seriously means to be compelled to make climate action our top priority. We must avoid a devastating 15-degree increase in global temperature by the end of this century.

At a length of over 1,100 pages, the report is too long for Naptime Activism, or so I thought. But once I started poking around in the actual report, I found that it is accessible. Understandable. Bite-sized. Clear. And worth a read.

What’s happening where you live?

The report includes chapters that focus on specific regions of the US in order to show how climate change is already affecting your area, and what will happen in the future. The tone of this report limits the important but distracting discussions of confidence levels and ranges of uncertainty so common in other scientific reports on climate and instead focuses on what will happen, in language that is easy to understand.

The eight regional chapters of the draft National Climate Assessment have graphs, charts, and clear language about the importance of addressing our climate instability NOW. If you’d like to get a summary of what the draft assessment has to say about your area, The Climate Reality Project, a MCAF partner, has pulled together fact sheets by region so you can see what is and will be the effects of climate change where you live. From them, I learned that in my region (the Northeast):

More frequent and severe heat waves will increase the number of “bad air” days. Asthma-related emergency room visits are likely to go up because of increased ground-level ozone, or smog.

What are the health effects of climate disruption?

We’ve heard it before, and we are hearing it again. Climate change is here, now. It threatens the health of our children today, and it threatens their health in the future.

Climate change threatens human health and well-being in many ways, including impacts from increased extreme weather events, wildfire, decreased air quality, diseases transmitted by insects, food and water, and threats to mental health. Some of these health impacts are already underway in the U.S.

Climate change will, absent other changes, amplify some of the existing health threats the nation now faces. Certain people and communities are especially vulnerable, including children, the elderly, the sick, the poor, and some communities of color.

Public health actions, especially preparedness and prevention, can do much to protect people from some of the impacts of climate change. Early action provides the largest health benefits. As threats increase, our ability to adapt to future changes may be limited.

Responding to climate change provides opportunities to improve human health and well-being across many sectors, including energy, agriculture, and transportation. Many of these strategies offer a variety of benefits, protecting people while combating climate change and providing other societal benefits.

Early action can help – that means now. And the things we do to fight climate change will benefit our health and well-being across society.

What do YOU think? Does this report address your concerns about climate change? Does it answer your questions? Does it speak to your needs?

The report opened for 90 days of public comment last month. The comment period closes April 12 2013.

Emily Cloyd, Public Participation Coordinator of the National Climate Assessment, encourages people to submit comments. She wrote in an email, “we expect that people will submit comments related to the scientific underpinnings of the report as well as to the accessibility and usefulness of the report for understanding climate change and climate change impacts.”

We are the guardians of our children’s future. We should have a voice in the official document of record. You can read the draft Assessment HERE. You can comment on it HERE.

So let’s get working!


TOPICS: African-American Community, Climate Change, Heat and Extreme Weather, Latino Community, Pollution, Renewable Energy, Social Justice