Why the National Climate Assessment Matters

Why the National Climate Assessment Matters

If you were busy on Friday (November 23rd), you were not the only one. Approximately 74% of Americans were projected to participate in 2018 Black Friday shopping events, either in stores or online. A whopping $90.14 billion in spending was projected over the holiday weekend – that’s almost twice the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Lithuania. However, while you and almost everyone you know were participating in the shopping holiday of holidays, the U.S. government was also keeping busy.

On Friday the White House released the most comprehensive federal climate report to date – almost a month ahead of its scheduled mid-December release. The fourth National Climate Assessment is a massive quadrennial report developed by thirteen federal agencies that details the dire current and future effects of climate change on the United States. There is some speculation that this abrupt release was intended to bury the findings of the report. Not surprisingly, the report is a scathing reproach on the inaction of the federal government to mitigate climate change. It states that the frequency and severity of weather events has increased and will continue to do so without comprehensive environmental reforms. Hurricanes, wildfires, floods, and droughts will become harsher and more common as the planet temperature warms and the health, labor, and infrastructure costs of the events will mount dramatically.

The report also highlights the political, economic, and ecological consequences of climate change that are already taking place. It found that extreme weather disasters have cost the U.S. nearly $400 billion since 2015. Recent costly examples include the Camp Fire in Northern California and Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana. Additionally, the human cost of extreme weather has continued to increase. While the 85 lives that were lost in the Camp Fire and the 107 lives lost due to Hurricane Harvey seem like striking enough examples, there are even more insidious human consequences of climate change. For instance, virus-carrying insects such as mosquitoes and ticks are moving northward as the temperature warms which increases the pool of individuals at-risk of infection. Additionally, damage to critical infrastructure and property from storms or fires can cause motor-vehicle crashes and can isolate individuals from necessary medical services in the aftermath of severe weather.

The effects of climate change are happening in real time, but the current federal administration has sought to downplay the effects of man-made climate change and has taken steps to loosen regulations designed to address the issue. However, local, state, and corporate entities have taken up the torch of climate mitigation and adaptation in the federal government’s absences.  Numerous localities have increased natural gas and renewable energy generation. In addition, private companies have increasingly implemented plans to meet emission reduction targets. Following the trend of climate consciousness, many individuals have taken steps to reduce their personal carbon footprints. All of these efforts have contributed to a decline in U.S. greenhouse gas emission over the past decade. While comprehensive federal and international mitigation is necessary to significantly slow the effects of climate change, the efforts of smaller entities have not gone unrewarded.

So, this holiday season we at TRCF are going to try and do our small part to mitigate climate change. Small Footprint Family has some great, easy suggestions for having an Eco-Friendly Holiday, including carbon offsetting holiday travel and purchasing eco-friendly, locally made gifts. Giving and receiving gifts is wonderful – and probably why Black Friday is so popular – and is made even better when they are environmentally thoughtful. Happy giving!

Hello! My name is Kara Hoffman and I am a graduate intern at Three Rivers Community Foundation. I am currently studying at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Social Work with a Community, Organization, and Social Action (COSA) concentration. I have a passion for serving victims of discrimination, oppression, and injustice in any form. I am also a Pittsburgh native and a proud lover of bridges, pierogi, and Steelers football. I enjoy engaging with the progressive social change community!

Contact me: khoffman@threeriverscommunity.org