While it is often asserted that rich countries like the United States will be spared the worst effects of climate change, the recently released Fifth National Climate Assessment finds that temperatures in the US are actually rising faster than the global average. According to the authoritative report, Americans are suffering “far-reaching and worsening” consequences from the climate crisis, with worse to come.
An article in The Guardian summarized some of the National Climate Assessment’s findings:
- The climate crisis is causing disruption to all regions of the US, from flooding via heavier rainfall in the north-east to prolonged drought in the south-west. A constant is heat – “across all regions of the US, people are experiencing warming temperatures and longer-lasting heatwaves” – with nighttime and winter temperatures rising faster than daytime and summer temperatures.
- People’s health is already being harmed by worsened air quality from smog, wildfire smoke, dust and increased pollen, as well as from extreme weather events and the spread of infectious diseases. Children born in 2020 will be exposed to far more climate-related hazards compared to people born in 1965.
- There are “profound changes” underway in the water cycle, raising the risk of flooding, drought and degraded water supplies for people in the US. Snow cover in mountains is decreasing, while the nation’s supply of groundwater is under threat from warming temperatures.
- Americans’ everyday and recreational activities are at risk, with a changing climate causing invasive species and harmful algal blooms that prevent access to beaches and fishing for certain species. Culturally important species for Indigenous people, some of them subsistence hunters, are shifting in response to temperature changes.