Right on the heels of unsettling UN reports that examine the impact of climate change world-wide, a new National Climate Assessment describes the effects and risks of climate change here in the United States.
From torrential rainfall in the northeast, to beetle infestations that are killing millions of acres of forest in the northwest, to drought conditions across the southwest, human-induced climate change is already taking a toll on America’s ecology and economy. It’s here. Now. And without a sharp and swift reversal in greenhouse gas emission trends, it’s going to get much, much worse,
Is there anything really new in this latest tale of woe? Not as far as I can tell. The National Assessment pretty much confirms the findings of every other credible report. As the studies pile up over the years, the only things that change are the confidence scientists have in their conclusions, which goes up, and the time remaining before catastrophic effects become unavoidable, which goes down.
Despite the downbeat tone of this post, I’m actually hopeful that the weight of evidence is beginning to change the dynamics of the political discussion, and starting to get us past the phony, partisan debate about the fact of human-induced climate change. When you’re standing in a burning house, it’s hard to keep arguing about whether the fire is real.