Climate change is fueling forest fires, creating water scarcity, harming animal habitats, and causing other significant changes throughout the United States that will only worsen as global temperatures increase, concludes a new federal government assessment of current and future climate change impacts.
The sobering analysis, prepared by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) &
an inter-agency structure that coordinates climate research efforts across the federal government &
reinforces the urgent need for Congress to take action on climate change, according to officials at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), who called upon the U.S. Senate to pass the Lieberman-Warner climate change bill (S. 2192) which is scheduled for debate next week.
Dr. Richard Moss, WWF's vice president and managing director for climate change, who led the CCSP coordination office during both the Clinton and Bush administrations, said the impacts detailed in the report should serve as a wake-up call for policymakers.
"The findings of this report highlight the urgency of the climate change problem, the need to slow its growth by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and the importance of preparing for its impacts, which ultimately will worsen with each additional political cycle of inaction," Moss said. "The U.S. Senate has an opportunity to demonstrate leadership next week when it votes on the Lieberman-Warner bill. As this assessment shows, squandering that opportunity is not an option we can afford."
The report, titled "The Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture, Land Resources, Water Resources, and Biodiversity," details significant impacts of climate change already being observed in every region of the country:
"The number and frequency of forest fires and insect outbreaks are increasing in the interior West, the Southwest, and Alaska. Precipitation, streamflow, and stream temperatures are increasing in most of the continental United States. The western United States is experiencing reduced snowpack and earlier peaks in spring runoff.
The growth of many crops and weeds is being stimulated. Migration of plant and animal species is changing the composition and structure of arid, polar, aquatic, coastal and other ecosystems."
The report also details the impacts of climate change on wildlife, noting that of 1,598 animal species examined in more than 800 studies, nearly 60 percent were found to have been affected by climate change.
"Climate change is one of the greatest long-term threats to wildlife and threatens to unravel decades of conservation efforts," said Thomas Dillon, WWF's senior vice president for field programs. "WWF is on the ground in nearly every corner of the planet developing and implementing new strategies to help wildlife adapt to rapidly changing habitats. The survival of many species wholly depends on our ability and willingness to turn the tide on climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions."
Moss added that the importance of Congressional action on climate change will be further emphasized later this week when the CCSP is expected to issue a second, broader report "Scientific Assessment of the Effects of Global Change on the United States, which will detail additional impacts on human health, transportation, energy supplies and use, and communities.
Moss also noted that WWF strongly supports Senate Bill 2307, introduced by Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), which would reauthorize and strengthen the CCSP.
Key findings of the report released today are highlighted below:
"Climate change is currently impacting the nation's ecosystems and services in significant ways, and those alterations are very likely to accelerate in the future, in some cases dramatically.
Even under the most optimistic CO2 emission scenarios, important changes in sea level, regional and super-regional temperatures, and precipitation patterns will have profound effects."
"Management of water resources will become more challenging. Increased incidence of disturbances such as forest fires, insect outbreaks, severe storms, and drought will command public attention and place increasing demands on management resources. Ecosystems are likely to be pushed increasingly into alternate states with the possible breakdown of traditional species relationships, such as pollinator/plant and predator/prey interactions, adding additional stresses and potential for system failures. Some agricultural and forest systems may experience near-term productivity increases, but over the long term, many such systems are likely to experience overall decreases in productivity that could result in economic losses, diminished ecosystem services, and the need for new, and in many cases significant, changes to management regimes."
The report, The Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture, Land Resources, Water Resources, and Biodiversity, is available online: /Library/sap/sap4-3/default.php.
WWF urges Congress to pass climate change bill