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06/24/2009

White House Releases Climate Change Impacts Report

Last Tuesday, the Obama administration released its first ever climate science report, the most important and comprehensive assessment of the impacts of climate change in the U.S. since the first National Assessment in 2000.  "Global Climate Change Impacts in the US," compiled by leading scientists and experts, clearly shows the wide-ranging and damaging impacts that climate change will have on our country.

In addition to the effects that the report highlights in terms of water resources, energy supply and use, transportation, agriculture, human health, and society, the report emphasizes the enormous changes we already are seeing and can expect to increase in ecosystems across the country.  The following points are from the assessment's summary:

  • Ecocystem processes, such as those that control growth and decomposition, have been affected.
  • Large-scale shifts have occurred in the range of species and the timing of the seasons and animal migrations, and are very likely to continue.
  • Fires, insect pests, disease pathogens, and invasive weed species have increased, and these trends are likely to continue.
  • Deserts and drylands are likely to become hotter and drier, feeding a self-reinforcing cycle of invasive plants, fire, and erosion.
  • Coastal and near-shore ecosystems are already under multiple stresses.  Climate change and ocean acidification will exacerbate these stresses.
  • Arctic sea ice ecosystems are already being adversely affected by the loss of summer sea ice and further changes are expected.
  • The habitats of some mountain species and coldwater fish, such as salmon and trout, are very likely to contract in response to warming.

This report should act as a wake-up call to all the work that still needs to be done.  Enacting strong climate legislation is a critical first step; however, as the above summary shows, many of our country's ecosystems and all the services they provide are seriously threatened by climate change.  We have to work now to reduce as many additional stessors as possible and make our lands more resilient and adaptable in a new, warmer world.

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