Let’s Change the Climate Conversation: an overview of the National Climate Assessment

Another day, another report saying we’re doomed. IPCC Report, 2013: DOOMED. National Climate Assessment, 2014: DOOMED.

Screenshot from the report

This is not new. We are trashing the Earth, we are changing the climate, and we are doing it at warp speed.

But I think it is time to change the climate conversation. Yes, we are doomed if we keep it up. I mean, I sound like a broken record when I say that we need to make a change and we need to make it now. But now, with these two reports released, it should show some of you that the time is in fact now.

Some of the main results from the assessment, from the U.S. Global Change Research Program, are as follows:

  • Extreme weather: heat waves, drought, heavy downpours, floods, hurricanes
  • Human health: decreased air quality, higher exposure to illnesses transferred by food/water/ticks/mosquitoes, allergies, extreme heat
  • Water supply: higher water demand (so less to go around, if you haven’t gotten that memo from my blog yet), lesser water quality
  • Agriculture: increase in weeds/disease/pests, soil erosion, heat and drought damage
  • Oceans: rising sea levels, ocean acidification, habitat loss for marine life

For the full interactive version of the report, click here or click-through the photo.

Screenshot from the opening page of the climate report
Screenshot from the opening page of the climate report

So maybe the science of these issue isn’t for you, but I will explain it to you simply: using fossil fuels at the rate we are now will cause all of these problems. How? Because excess greenhouse gases in the atmosphere warm the planet, causing this ridiculously long cascade of effects. I promise, there is science to back it up.

Projected water supplies – check out the red areas. This is not good.

Some of key messages from the “response” part of the assessment are as follows:

  • If this is going to work, the private sector has to work with the industrial sector
  • Barriers to change include funding and legislation
  • There is no “one size fits all” solution
  • Climate change adaptation measures can be community oriented, like a better plan for disasters and sustainable development
  • Multiple stress communities are in trouble first
  • Global mitigation needs to be taken by the horns at the industrial level in order to change greenhouse gas levels more quickly
  • Despite the “doomed” approach, greenhouse gas emissions have lowered in recent years, but they need to be lowered more
  • We need the help of scientists if we are going to get this right
  • Things to remember: the climate hasn’t changed this drastically since we have been on it. So, these projections are models based on science.
Projected temperature increase for California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona Colorado and New Mexico. With increased emissions and without!

As a journalist, this is where I come in. The past few months I have been learning about how to translate science so news consumers can understand it, and what better way to do this than through educating the public on climate change mitigation? Journalists also need to be responsible in telling stories of people who’s lives have been ruined by climate change, as I think that is the only way to get the message across.

In short, the climate conversation shouldn’t be “wow, is climate change real?”

It should be this: the changes are happening. Climate change is real. Now what are we going to do about it?

One thought on “Let’s Change the Climate Conversation: an overview of the National Climate Assessment

  1. Thanks for this great, sobering, eye-opening read. It helps me see how climate change is effecting me (and people in other regions) right now and some of the risks associated with climate change that I wasn’t aware of it.

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