What the Forth National Climate Assessment says about the impact climate change will have on U.S. communities

Two weeks ago, the US Global Change Research Program released the second installment of the Fourth National Climate Assessment. The report outlined some of the dire consequences climate change will have on all aspects of life in the U.S. from water quality to food production.

Here’s some of our top takeaways from the report:

Climate change will impact indigenous and low-income communities the most.

The impacts of climate change will not distributed equally. Those already in lower-income and marginalized communities will suffer the most from weather and climate-related events. Additionally, the impacts of climate change on water, land, and coastal areas are expected to increasingly disrupt Indigenous peoples’ livelihoods and economies. Prioritizing actions to benefit our most vulnerable populations across the country are essential to creating a more equitable future.

Climate change will damage infrastructure and labor productivity of U.S. communities.

Rising temperatures and sea levels, as well as an increase in extreme weather events are expected to damage critical infrastructure and disrupt labor productivity across the country. Industries that depend on natural resources and favorable climate conditions, such as agriculture, tourism, and fisheries will be particularly vulnerable. Expect energy costs to increase as energy demands increase alongside decreased power generation caused by rising temperatures.

The quantity and quality of water will become compromised.

Intensified droughts, heavy downpours, and reduced snowpack will cause a decline in water quality and availability. Hydropower production in the Southwest and Northwest would also be compromised by changing conditions. Additionally, groundwater depletion would elevate the drought risk for many parts of the country, especially in the Southwest and Southern Great Plains.

Disease will become more common and severe.

Extreme weather events and rising air and water temperatures are expected to increase exposure to waterborne and food-borne diseases, affecting food and water safety. Heat-related deaths and the severity of allergic illnesses, such as asthma and hay fever, are expected to increase. Climate change is also expected to change the geographic range and number of disease-carrying insects and pests, including those that carry Lyme disease, Zika, West Nile, and dengue.

Crop production in the Midwest will suffer.

Yields from major U.S. crops are expected to decline as a consequence of increases in temperatures and changes in water availability, soil erosion, and disease and pest outbreaks. Livestock will also be exposed to more heat stress as extreme heat conditions become the norm. This will result in large economic losses for producers.

Aging infrastructure will face high risks of failure.

The nation’s energy and transportation systems are at great risk of being compromised by the effects of climate change. Expect more frequent and longer-lasting power outages, fuel shortages, and service disruptions. An increase in the frequency and extent of high-tide flooding due to sea level rise threatens America’s trillion-dollar coastal property market and public infrastructure, with impacts to the larger economy.

Coastal ecosystems and communities will be damaged.

Rising water temperatures, ocean acidification, retreating arctic sea ice, sea level rise, high-tide flooding, coastal erosion, high storm surges, and heavy precipitation threaten our oceans and coasts. This will put countless ocean and marine species at risk, while also decreasing the productivity of certain fisheries, and threatening communities that rely on marine ecosystems for livelihoods and recreation.


Read the full report here.