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  US releases national climate change assessment
Web Extra Thursday, May 29, 2008

U.S. releases national climate change assessment

On Thursday, the U.S. federal government released a 271-page national assessment addressing how global warming will impact the United States.

The report, which is four years overdue 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.) In 2006, Greenpeace, the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth sued.  

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 on Thursday. “By delivering these reports today,” Hays says, “we are complying with those deadlines.”

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 says. “By putting [the information] all together in one place, I think we’re satisfying the demand that’s out there.” 

The report, which is available at, is similar to those issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change beginning in February 2007. But the impacts are specific to regions within the United States.

Conclusions highlighted at the press conference by William Brennan, the acting director of the CCSP, include:

The greatest warming in the United States will occur in the winter in northern Alaska.

Coastal areas are projected to warm less than the national average.

Hot days and nights and heat waves are likely to become more frequent, while cold days and nights are likely to become less frequent.

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.

Water systems of the West that rely on capturing snowmelt runoff, such as the Columbia and Colorado River systems, are vulnerable.

Cassandra Willyard

"Federal climate change initiative under the gun," Geotimes, February 2008
U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy
"Climate report points finger at fossil fuels," Geotimes online, February 2, 2007
"Global water supply takes some heat," Geotimes, March 2006

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