New White House report on global climate change impacts in the United States, Northeast

On June 16, the White House released a new report from the US Global Change Research Program on climatic changes and impacts in the US and the Northeast. The report, Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States, compiles years of scientific research and presents a consensus of 13 agencies, plus several major universities and research institutes, on the conclusion that climate change is already having visible impacts in the United States, and that the choices we make now will determine the severity of its impacts in the future. "This new report integrates the most up-to-date scientific findings into a comprehensive picture of the ongoing as well as expected future impacts of heat-trapping pollution on the climate experienced by Americans, region by region and sector by sector," said John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. "It tells us why remedial action is needed sooner rather than later, as well as showing why that action must include both global emissions reductions to reduce the extent of climate change and local adaptation measures to reduce the damage from the changes that are no longer avoidable."

For the Northeast, the report warns that:

Severe flooding due to sea-level rise and heavy downpours is likely to occur more frequently.

The densely populated coasts of the Northeast face substantial increases in the extent and frequency of storm surge, coastal flooding, erosion, property damage, and loss of wetlands. New York state alone has more than $2.3 trillion in insured coastal property. Much of this coastline is exceptionally vulnerable to sea-level rise and related impacts.

Extreme heat and declining air quality are likely to pose increasing problems for human health, especially in urban areas.

By late this century under higher emissions scenarios, hot summer conditions would arrive three weeks earlier and last three weeks longer into fall. Cities that currently experience just a few days above 100°F each summer would average 20 such days per summer. Cities like Hartford and Philadelphia would average nearly 30 days over 100°F per summer. In addition, cities that now experience air quality problems would see those problems worsen with rising temperatures, if no additional controls were placed on ozone-causing pollutants.

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