New Report Discusses Implications of Global Climate Change The public has until August 11 to comment on a new report just issued on global climate change. The report, "Climate Change Impacts on the United States, the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change," presents a sobering view of how global warming could affect different regions and sectors in the United States in the next 100 years.
This report is the result of two years of work with contributions from academia, government, the public and private sectors, and private individuals. Hundreds of published scientific reports were utilized. Twenty workshops were convened. The 145-page report was reviewed twice in late 1999 by 500 reviewers, with more than 300 comments received on various chapters. Earlier this year, about 24 additional experts reviewed the entire report.
Legislation signed by President Bush in 1990 required this report. The President's Science Advisor, Neal Lane, is the executive secretary of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources of the National Science and Technology Council, and has overall responsibility for the report. The 14-member National Assessment Synthesis Team, which wrote the draft, is seeking public comment on the draft, which is available for viewing at http://www.gcrio.org/NationalAssessment/ (Hard copies are not available.) Information on offering comments on the draft is available at this site. Comments are due by August 11.
This lavishly-illustrated report is written for a general audience. The focus is an analysis and evaluation of the projected consequences of an increase in greenhouse gases using the Hadley and Canadian climate models. A release explains, "Among its key findings, the draft report indicates that continued growth in worldwide emissions is likely to increase average temperatures across the United States by 5-10 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100; impacts such as heavier precipitation and increased drought will vary widely from region to region; some natural ecosystems are likely to disappear entirely and others may be severely disrupted; changes in rain and snowfall patterns could affect the availability of fresh water; and crop productivity is likely to rise nationally, although region cropping patterns may change significantly."
Of interest to many readers will be regional chapters outlining potential consequences of climate warming. If the adage "all politics is local" is correct, policymakers should find the projections in these chapters of particular note. The impacts are varied, ranging from the thawing of Alaska's permafrost and inundation of Gulf Coast wetlands to a higher incidence of urban heat waves like that killing hundreds in Chicago in 1995. There are also chapters on forestry, agriculture, water, human health, and coastal areas and marine resources. Not all of the projected impacts are negative; for instance, short-term forest productivity is expected to increase. Much will depend on how successfully people are able to adapt to these changes, and the effect of mitigation efforts.
Anthony Janetos of the World Resources Institute; Thomas Karl, the director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center; and Jerry Melillo of the Ecosystems Center of the Marine Biology Laboratory at Woods Hole, were co-chairs of the scientific team leading the analysis.
Richard M. Jones