Time Is Running Out For Our Planet!

he U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) was established by Presidential initiative in 1989 and mandated by Congress in the Global Change  Research Act (GCRA) of 1990.Under this mandate,  it is required to develop and coordinate "a comprehensive and integrated United States research program which will assist the Nation and the world to understand, assess,  predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.”

On November 23, 2018, the administration released its second volume of the National Climate Assessment, which the federal government is required to produce every four years under the GCRA.  The first volume, issued in May 2014, concluded with nearly as much scientific certainty, but not quite the precision on the economic costs, that the tangible impacts of climate change had already started to inflict damage across the country. It cited increasing water scarcity in dry regions, torrential downpours in wet regions and more severe heat waves and wildfires.

The results of the 2014 report helped inform the previous administration as it wrote a set of landmark climate change regulations. The following year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a signature climate change policy, known as the Clean Power Plan, aimed to slash planet-warming emissions from coal-fired power plants. At the end of the 2015, the United States played a lead role in brokering the Paris Agreement. But in 2016, the new administration campaigned vigorously against those regulations and since winning the election, has systematically and destructively rolled back most of those environmental regulations and has pulled the United States completely out of the Paris Climate Agreement. 

This report warned that the current response is insufficient to stave off the worst impacts, stating that 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 US economy, environment, and human health and well-being not in some far-off future but in only a few daunting decades. 

This review of the crisis confronting us and the assessment of its devastating toll focuses on the report’s executive summary findings which have been included here in their entirety.  The high-level assessment of each of the major areas impacted are in italics, its associated commentary follows, and summarized at the end of this article using additional insights and statistics/data from reporting done by The New York Times and The Guardian.  The full 1656-page report is available online and can be viewed at  https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/.

FOURTH NATIONAL CLIMATE ASSESSMENT - Volume II: Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States  The National Climate Assessment (NCA) assesses the science of climate change and variability and its impacts across the United States, now and throughout this century.


These Summary Findings represent a high-level synthesis of the material in the underlying report. The findings consolidate Key Messages and supporting evidence from 16 national-level topic chapters, 10 regional chapters, and 2 chapters that focus on societal response strategies (mitigation and adaptation). Unless otherwise noted, qualitative statements regarding future conditions in these Summary Findings are broadly applicable across the range of different levels of future climate and associated impacts considered in this report.

1. Communities 

Climate change creates new risks and exacerbates existing vulnerabilities in communities across the United States, presenting growing challenges to human health and safety, quality of life, and the rate of economic growth.

The impacts of climate change are already being felt in communities across the country. More frequent and intense extreme weather and climate-related events, as well as changes in average climate conditions, are expected to continue to damage infrastructure, ecosystems, and social systems that provide essential benefits to communities. Future climate change is expected to further disrupt many areas of life, exacerbating existing challenges to prosperity posed by aging and deteriorating infrastructure, stressed ecosystems, and economic inequality. Impacts within and across regions will not be distributed equally. People who are already vulnerable, including lower-income and other marginalized communities, have lower capacity to prepare for and cope with extreme weather and climate-related events and are expected to experience greater impacts. Prioritizing adaptation actions for the most vulnerable populations would contribute to a more equitable future within and across communities. Global action to significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions can substantially reduce climate-related risks and increase opportunities for these populations in the longer term.