U.S. Study Finds Climate Change Impacts Significant

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 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 need for Congress to take action on climate change, according to officials at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Richard Moss, Ph.D., WWF’s vice president and managing director for climate change, who led the CCSP coordination office during 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 … when it votes on the Lieberman-Warner bill. As this assessment shows, squandering that opportunity is not an option we can afford.”

The report, “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.

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.

To read the report, visit www.climatescience.gov/Library/sap/sap4-3/default.php.

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