Three New Assessments Find Huge Climate Impacts November 17, 2023

Series of U.S. maps showing effects of climate change by region (temperature, precipitation, sea level)

Three important reports on climate change were issued recently – and the news isn’t good. They found widespread impacts and more billion-dollar climate- and weather-related disasters in the U.S., an increase in food insecurity and heat-related deaths around the world, and the hottest summer ever recorded on Earth.

National Climate Assessment: Huge impacts in the U.S.

The newly released fifth “National Climate Assessment,”  a congressionally mandated study conducted by the federal government, found that the U.S. is experiencing huge impacts and huge expenses due to climate change. Every part of the country is feeling the effects.

While heat waves are one obvious outcome of the rising temperatures, other dangerous results are also increasing:

  • Extreme precipitation events are more common. California, Florida, and Texas, which together account for over a quarter of the nation’s population, are experiencing extreme swings in precipitation and more-frequent extreme storms.
  • The year set a record for weather- and climate-related disasters that inflicted damages of one billion dollars or more. There were 23 of them — and that was only through the month of August.
  • The negative impacts of warming amplify social injustice. People of color, low-wealth communities, and people who work outdoors, like construction workers and farmworkers, are affected disproportionately, yet may have fewer resources with which to rebound.

The Lancet Countdown 2023: More deaths worldwide

The eighth update to the prestigious “Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change” showed that globally, more and more people getting sick and dying from droughts, food insecurity, extreme heat, and other disastrous climate effects. Older people and infants are particularly at risk; heat-related deaths of people over 65 have increased by 85 percent since the 1990s. The increase in extreme heat events costs both lives and billions of dollars of losses from the inability to work.

Additionally, food insecurity due to extreme heat and droughts is worsening, with an estimated 127 million more people experiencing moderate to severe heat-related food insecurity in 2021 compared with 1981-2010. And for the first time, the Lancet included “alarming” projections for soaring health risks, given persistent global inaction over the climate emergency.

“Despite continued warnings of the risks,” the Lancet wrote, “and regardless of agreed targets to limit temperature rise, the world is accelerating in the wrong direction.” 

NASA, NOAA: Hottest summer on record

These trends were underscored by the findings of NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which announced that this year’s period of June through August was the hottest on record, both in the Northern and the Southern Hemisphere.

Need for change; signs of hope

Our reliance on burning oil, coal and gas is causing these temperature increases and weather disasters. Needed changes are not happening fast enough, the National Climate Assessment warns us. Americans, the report says, need to make deeper changes to the ways we work and live.

Yet both the National Climate Assessment and the Lancet Countdown pointed out that we still have opportunities to secure a healthy future. Pathways to a cooler, healthier and  fairer planet include increasing energy efficiency and electrifying our energy sources. That’s why PSR is working across the country to secure building electrification. You can see examples of our climate-cooling work here, here and here.

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