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U.S. Government Study: Climate Change Response Not Strong Enough to ‘Avoid Substantial Damages’

Rising sea levels, stronger storms and droughts — the effects of climate change are being felt around the world right at this moment, and things will only get worse unless efforts are made to stave the release of greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new interagency report released Friday. The 1,700-page study was compiled by scientists from 13 federal agencies, and concludes efforts are currently insufficient to counter emissions from human activity that will continue to affect the climate for decades and perhaps centuries to come.

“Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities,” according to the National Climate Assessment. “Climate-related risks will continue to grow without additional action. Decisions made today determine risk exposure for current and future generations and will either broaden or limit options to reduce the negative consequences of climate change. While Americans are responding in ways that can bolster resilience and improve livelihoods, neither global efforts to mitigate the causes of climate change nor regional efforts to adapt to the impacts currently approach the scales needed to avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades.”

The report includes an interactive map that allows users to focus on a specific region of the country and see their individual efforts to combat climate change.

  • Hawaii, for instance, is “developing management options to promote coral reef recovery from widespread bleaching events caused by warmer waters that threaten tourism, fisheries, and coastal protection from wind and waves,” according to the report.
  • In Louisiana, local governments are “pooling hazard reduction funds, and cities and states in the Northeast are investing in more resilient water, energy, and transportation infrastructure.”
  • In Alaska, “a tribal health organization is developing adaptation strategies to address physical and mental health challenges driven by climate change and other environmental changes.”
  • As midwestern farmers adopt new management strategies to reduce erosion and nutrient losses caused by heavier rains, forest managers in the Northwest are developing adaptation strategies in response to wildfire increases that affect human health, water resources, timber production, fish and wildlife, and recreation.
  • After extensive hurricane damage fueled in part by a warmer atmosphere and warmer, higher seas, communities in Texas are considering ways to rebuild more resilient infrastructure.
  • In the U.S. Caribbean, governments are developing new frameworks for storm recovery “based on lessons learned from the 2017 hurricane season.”

UN REPORT: Economic Losses from Climate-Related Disasters Rise 151 Percent in Past 20 Years

James Cullum
Multimedia journalist James Cullum has reported for over a decade to newspapers, magazines and websites in the D.C. metro area. He excels at finding order in chaotic environments, from slave liberations in South Sudan to the halls of the power in Washington, D.C.

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