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  Geotimes - July 2008 - U.S. releases national climate change assessment

U.S. releases national climate change assessment

On May 29, the U.S. federal government released a long overdue national assessment of how global warming will impact the United States.

The report, which is four years late according to federal law, is a response to a court order demanding that the Bush administration deliver a comprehensive climate change report to Congress by the end of May. But it is also a “one-stop shop” where policymakers and citizens can get information about the regional impacts of climate change, said Sharon Hays, deputy director for science at the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy, at a press conference.

Over the past several years, the federal Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) has labored to produce a series of 21 reports encompassing everything from temperature trends to impacts on transportation. These reports were meant to take the place of a national assessment on climate change, which the government is required to produce every four years. But the reports fell behind schedule. (So far, only six are complete.)

The court gave the Bush administration until the end of May to produce a national assessment and an updated research plan, which was also released May 29. But complying with the law wasn’t the only concern, according to Hays. “A lot of people have pointed out that not everyone wants to read a number of different reports,” she said. “By putting [the information] all together in one place, I think we’re satisfying the demand that’s out there.”

Hays said the report is similar to those issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change beginning in February 2007. But the impacts are specific to the United States. William Brennan, the acting director of CCSP, said the report predicts that the greatest warming in the United States will occur in the winter in northern Alaska and that coastal areas are projected to warm less than the national average. Additionally, hot days and nights and heat waves are likely to become more frequent, while cold days and nights are likely to become less frequent.

Furthermore, Brennan noted, the resilience of many ecosystems is likely to be exceeded this century by a combination of climate change; disturbances such as flooding, drought, wildfire, insects and ocean acidification; and other global phenomena such as land use change and pollution.

Cassandra Willyard

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