The day after Thanksgiving — when many Americans are sleeping off their feasts and hunkering down for the holiday weekend — is a notoriously effective day for burying any major news. But this weekend, a big story dropped: a new report on global warming was issued by more than a dozen federal agencies outlining the national risks of unchecked climate change.
This landmark report, the second volume of the National Climate Assessment, was mandated by Congress and publicly released by the White House on Friday afternoon. The findings conclude that public health, the environment, and the national economy will be threatened by climate change over the next century if we do not take action.
According to the assessment, many predicted effects of climate change are already coming true, as reported by The New York Times. Tides are rising, with more reports of flooding in coastal regions, and warmer oceans are disrupting the fishing industry. The amount of ozone, smoke, and other air pollutants that cause illness and early death is increasing as wildfires grow larger, last longer, and become more dangerous. According to the Department of Defense, global warming also causes and prolongs political instability abroad, especially in countries with fewer resources; the strain of adjusting to climate change “degrades living conditions, human security and the ability of governments to meet the basic needs of their populations.”
It is vital to contact your representatives to make sure they know that climate change is a priority.
If these losses are not sufficiently tangible, volume two of the National Climate Assessment offers projected costs of climate change — literally. By the end of the century, the United States is set to lose $141 billion from heat-related deaths, $118 billion from rising sea levels, and $32 billion from damaged infrastructure, among other costs. The findings conclude that the national economy could shrink up to 10% by 2100 if there is no change.
It remains to be seen how the White House will react to this news, if at all. On Wednesday, a major cold front hit the northeast, and The Washington Post reports that much of the region saw record-low temperatures over the Thanksgiving holiday. In response, President Donald Trump tweeted, “Brutal and Extended Cold Blast could shatter ALL RECORDS - Whatever happened to Global Warming?”
The president’s remarks reiterate and underscore his administration’s approaches to climate change and environmental policy, which are directly challenged and often contradicted by the findings in this new report. The president himself has even called climate change a “hoax.”
Among many other changes, National Geographic reports that in the last year alone, the Trump administration has dismantled an Obama-era policy intended to limit car greenhouse gas emissions, loosened toxic air pollution regulations on private companies, and disbanded an EPA air pollution advisory panel. From high-profile moves, such as pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement, to various environmental policy changes and rollbacks over the past two years, this administration’s actions suggest it will continue to put the needs of manufacturing, oil, and big business ahead of addressing climate change.
The climate change crisis is not limited to the U.S. Per the New York Times, this new report comes about a month after the release of a United Nations study which found that climate change poses severe international humanitarian and economic threats that could come to pass as early as 2040.
The U.S. can take decisive and immediate action to help curb the effects of climate change.
This can feel like an insurmountable problem — how do we fight against climate change in the present to prevent it from undermining our future? But the U.S. can take decisive and immediate action to help curb the effects of climate change. In order to help mitigate global warming, the report recommends establishing federal regulations on greenhouse gas emissions and limiting the amount of pollutants released into the air. It also recommends imposing taxes or fees on companies that regularly release greenhouse gases and spending public money on clean-energy research.
It’s important to understand that the power to make this happen does not rest solely with the White House. The Supreme Court, for example, has refused the Trump administration’s request to block an unprecedented climate change lawsuit brought by a group of teens and young adults. They’re suing the federal government, arguing that they are being deprived of their rights to life, liberty, and property by the government’s failure to properly address climate change.
Even more immediately, Congress can take legislative action. The House of Representatives flipped in Democrats’ favor after the midterms, but nothing is set in stone — so it is vital to contact your representatives to make sure they know that climate change is a priority.