WEATHER

Worsening warming is hurting people in all regions, US climate assessment shows

Nov 15, 2023, 6:00 AM

Gilda Jackson walks on a pasture on her property that she grows hay on in Paradise, Texas, Aug. 21,...

FILE - Gilda Jackson walks on a pasture on her property that she grows hay on in Paradise, Texas, Aug. 21, 2023. Revved-up climate change now permeates Americans’ daily lives with harm that is “already far-reaching and worsening across every region of the United States," a massive new government report says Tuesday, Nov. 14. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)

(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)

Revved-up climate change now permeates Americans’ daily lives with harm that is “already far-reaching and worsening across every region of the United States,” a massive new government report says.

The National Climate Assessment, which comes out every four to five years, was released Tuesday with details that bring climate change’s impacts down to a local level. Unveiling the report at the White House, President Joe Biden blasted Republican legislators and his predecessor for disputing global warming.

Related: In fight to curb climate change, report shows world struggling to get on track

“Anyone who willfully denies the impact of climate change is condemning the American people to a very dangerous future. Impacts are only going to get worse, more frequent, more ferocious and more costly,” Biden said, noting that disasters cost the country $178 billion last year. “None of this is inevitable.”

Overall, Tuesday’s assessment paints a picture of a country warming about 60% faster than the world as a whole, one that regularly gets smacked with costly weather disasters and faces even bigger problems in the future.

Since 1970, the Lower 48 states have warmed by 2.5 degrees (1.4 degrees Celsius) and Alaska has heated up by 4.2 degrees (2.3 degrees Celsius), compared to the global average of 1.7 degrees (0.9 degrees Celsius), the report said. But what people really feel is not the averages, but when weather is extreme.

With heat wavesdroughtwildfire and heavy downpours, “we are seeing an acceleration of the impacts of climate change in the United States,” said study co-author Zeke Hausfather of the tech company Stripe and Berkeley Earth.

And that’s not healthy.

Climate change is ”harming physical, mental, spiritual, and community health and well-being through the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme events, increasing cases of infectious and vector-borne diseases, and declines in food and water quality and security,” the report said.

Compared to earlier national assessments, this year’s uses far stronger language and “unequivocally” blames the burning of coal, oil and gas for climate change.

The 37-chapter assessment includes an interactive atlas that zooms down to the county level. It finds that climate change is affecting people’s security, health and livelihoods in every corner of the country in different ways, with minority and Native American communities often disproportionately at risk.

In Alaska, which is warming two to three times faster than the global average, reduced snowpack, shrinking glaciers, thawing permafrost, acidifying oceans and disappearing sea ice have affected everything from the state’s growing season, to hunting and fishing, with projections raising questions about whether some Indigenous communities should be relocated.

The Southwest is experiencing more drought and extreme heat – including 31 consecutive days this summer when Phoenix’s daily high temperatures reached or exceeded 110 degrees – reducing water supplies and increasing wildfire risk.

Northeastern cities are seeing more extreme heat, flooding and poor air quality, as well as risks to infrastructure, while drought and floods exacerbated by climate change threaten farming and ecosystems in rural areas.

In the Midwest, both extreme drought and flooding threaten crops and animal production, which can affect the global food supply.

In the northern Great Plains, weather extremes like drought and flooding, as well as declining water resources, threaten an economy dependent largely on crops, cattle, energy production and recreation. Meanwhile, water shortages in parts of the southern Great Plains are projected to worsen, while high temperatures are expected to break records in all three states by midcentury.

In the Southeast, minority and Native American communities — who may live in areas with higher exposures to extreme heat, pollution and flooding — have fewer resources to prepare for or to escape the effects of climate change.

In the Northwest, hotter days and nights that don’t cool down much have resulted in drier streams and less snowpack, leading to increased risk of drought and wildfires. The climate disturbance has also brought damaging extreme rain.

Hawaii and other Pacific islands, as well as the U.S. Caribbean, are increasingly vulnerable to the extremes of drought and heavy rain as well as sea level rise and natural disaster as temperatures warm.

The United States will warm in the future about 40% more than the world as a total, the assessment said. The AP calculated, using others’ global projections, that that means America would get about 3.8 degrees (2.1 degrees Celsius) hotter by the end of the century.

Hotter average temperatures means weather that is even more extreme.

“The news is not good, but it is also not surprising,” said University of Colorado’s Waleed Abdalati, a former NASA chief scientist who was not part of this report. “What we are seeing is a manifestation of changes that were anticipated over the last few decades.”

The 2,200-page report comes after five straight months when the globe set monthly and daily heat records. It comes as the U.S. has set a record with 25 different weather disasters this year that caused at least $1 billion in damage.

“Climate change is finally moving from an abstract future issue to a present, concrete, relevant issue. It’s happening right now,” said report lead author Katharine Hayhoe, chief scientist at the Nature Conservancy and a professor at Texas Tech University. Five years ago, when the last assessment was issued, fewer people were experiencing climate change firsthand.

Surveys this year by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research show that.

In September, about 9 in 10 Americans (87%) said they’d experienced at least one extreme weather event in the past five years — drought, extreme heat, severe storms, wildfires or flooding. That was up from 79% who said that in April.

Hayhoe said there’s also a new emphasis in the assessment on marginalized communities.

“It is less a matter … of what hits where, but more what hits whom and how well those people can manage the impacts,” said University of Colorado’s Abdalati, whose saw much of his neighborhood destroyed in the 2021 Marshall wildfire.

Biden administration officials emphasize that all is not lost and the report details actions to reduce emissions and adapt to what’s coming.

By cleaning up industry, how electricity is made and how transport is powered, climate change can be dramatically reduced. Hausfather said when emissions stops, warming stops, “so we can stop this acceleration if we as a society get our act together.”

But some scientists said parts of the assessment are too optimistic.

“The report’s rosy graphics and outlook obscure the dangers approaching,” Stanford University climate scientist Rob Jackson said. “We are not prepared for what’s coming.”

___

Borenstein reported from Kensington, Maryland, and Webber from Fenton, Michigan.

___

Follow AP’s climate and environment coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/climate-and-environment and follow Seth Borenstein and Tammy Webber on Twitter at http://twitter.com/borenbears and https://twitter.com/twebber02

___

Associated Press climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. See more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Weather

Funnel clouds were spotted in Midway in September 2020. (Courtesy of Cameron Gibby)...

Peter Johnston

Utah tornado reports are up, but actual number are level

Utah tornado sightings are up in number however, many of those reports are never reach actual tornado status.

7 days ago

Southern arm of Great Salt Lake...

Carter Williams, KSL.com

Great Salt Lake’s southern arm reaches ‘significant’ level as spring rise slows down

The southern arm of Great Salt Lake reached an optimal level this week however, experts believe the lake will recede this summer.

9 days ago

A lone American flag at the Bonneville Salt Flats along Interstate 80 on the way to Wendover...

Adam Small

Despite warning signs, vehicles getting stuck in muddy Bonneville Salt Flats

While much of the Bonneville Salt Flats still look the same on the surface, underneath that salt is mud that vehicles are getting stuck in.

11 days ago

great salt lake shown, lithium in the lake is attracting companies...

Adam Small

Great Salt Lake level reaches seven-year high

Great Salt Lake now sits at 4,195.1 feet above sea level, more than 6.5 feet higher than its all-time historic low in late 2022.

16 days ago

Kara Smith of Brooklyn, New York, almost loses her umbrella as a gust of wind pops it open at Ensig...

Adam Small

Strong winds headed to Utah, namely, along Wasatch front

Strong winds will hit northern Utah over the next few days with expected strengths between 45 to 65 miles per hour.

16 days ago

A skier cuts through snow at Snowbird Ski Resort in Little Cottonwood Canyon...

CARLYSLE PRICE, KSL TV

May snowstorms allow some resorts to prolong season

A handful of Utah ski resorts have announced they will be open a little longer following May snowstorms.

16 days ago

Sponsored Articles

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.

...

Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

Worsening warming is hurting people in all regions, US climate assessment shows