Landmark climate report presents the Midwest with both challenge and opportunity

Author(s):

Post date: May 8, 2014

Rolf Nordstrom, GPI's President and CEO, is a co-author of the Midwest chapter of the third National Climate Assessment

This week the federal government released the third National Climate Assessment (NCA), a comprehensive report on climate change impacts in the US.  Initiated under George H.W. Bush and mandated by Congress in 1990 to inform policymakers and the public, the first NCA was published in 2000.

The NCA contributes to a shared understanding of climate science and provides guidance in crafting policy to prevent – and respond to the effects of – climate change.

It's worth noting that this report is produced by more than 300 scientists and other experts from academia, government, industry, and NGOs, guided by a Federal Advisory Committee, while also incorporating extensive feedback from the public. 

Unique look at on-the-ground impacts of climate change in specific regions of the US

While there have been other reports released on climate change in recent months, this report is set apart by its focus on concrete impacts to each region of the US.

As John Podesta, Counselor to President Obama, commented this week

“This third National Climate Assessment will be the most authoritative and comprehensive source of scientific information ever produced about how climate change is going to impact all regions of the United States and key sectors of the national economy.”

Report is unequivocal about the immediate – and long-term – effects of climate change

This new scientific report on climate change is unequivocal – the effects are already being felt today by people across the country and we are paying a heavy price.  The NCA asserts in the introduction that, “Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present.”

[NCA GRAPHIC:  Percent changes in the amount of precipitation falling in very heavy events (the heaviest 1%) from 1958 to 2012 for each region. There is a clear national trend toward a greater amount of precipitation being concentrated in very heavy events, particularly in the Northeast and Midwest. (Figure source: updated from Karl et al. 2009)]

 

For many of us, this comes as no surprise. As a fifth-generation Iowa farmer recently observed, “we don’t know what normal is anymore.”  The NCA clearly shows that the effects of climate change are already impacting our communities in tangible ways, from increased heat waves, droughts and floods to more invasive species and declining water quality.

Below, a graphic from the report illustrates the projected changes to our climate in the Midwest and the associated impacts to human health, electricity demand, weather and agriculture.

National Climate Assessment Graphic of Projected Climate Change

 

Report highlights the critical role of the Midwest in achieving a transition to a zero or low-carbon energy economy

The NCA illustrates the huge opportunity in the Midwest to tackle this challenge and lead the nation – and world – in deploying renewable and low-carbon energy resources, including wind, solar, and biomass resources; and capturing, storing, and putting to productive use carbon dioxide from fossil energy production.

Here are just a few of the ways that we at GPI are working to make this transition a reality, from actions in our own community to national – and even international – collaborations.

While the NCA shows the major challenges we face from climate change, it also provides us with the shared knowledge to chart a path forward and develop real, sustainable solutions. 

 

Click here to view the NCA website.  

Click here to view the NCA's Midwest chapter and here for a 2-page summary of the chapter.