The Obama White House has released its first climate change report, and it doesn’t say anything we don’t already know. It says it, however, in stronger language than any presidency that came before, with statements like “Global warming is unequivocal and primarily human-induced” and “Thresholds will be crossed, leading to large changes in climate and ecosystem”.
The report describes in vivid detail how our urban infrastructure will be placed in peril from intense hurricanes and storm surges, how heat waves, poor air quality, and insects will increase, and how a rapidly intensifying climate change will make it difficult for both society and the natural resources we possess to adapt.
But the 190-page report, produced by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, doesn’t just revel in doom and gloom. The report also breaks down the impact of global warming U.S. region and economic sector. That makes it much easier for local governments–and businesses hoping to profit from rising seas–to focus their energies on areas that need help the most. For example, the report’s section on transportation describes how sea-level rise and storm surge will increase flooding of airports, roads, rail lines, and tunnels. City governments may have already known that this would happen, but now that a report has been released by the White House, there is little reason to forsake immediate action.
Obama’s report will also help farmers to make crucial crop and livestock decisions based on the length of the growing season and chances for drought. It will be an uphill battle for farmers; heavy downpours and droughts will reduce yields, and increased heat and disease could reduce livestock productivity. Still, the report stresses the need for innovation in farming. Perhaps creepily sterile Japanese plant factories won’t be the wave of the future, but they do highlight our ability to come up with out-of-the-box solutions.