By Avery Fellow
WASHINGTON, D.C.--Climate change is projected to cause coastal and river
flooding in the Northeast United States, compromising infrastructure and
increasing the vulnerability of the region's residents, in addition to heat
waves, droughts, and other impacts throughout the country, according to a draft report on climate change
impacts released by a federal advisory panel Jan. 11.
The final National Climate Assessment is expected to be issued in February
2014, according to Kathy Jacobs, assistant director for climate assessment and
adaptation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and
director of the National Climate Assessment. Jacobs was speaking at a meeting on
the draft assessment Jan. 11. The draft report will undergo several more periods
of review before being finalized, she said.
The National Climate Assessment Development Advisory Committee approved
release of the draft during the meeting. The draft will be open for public
comment for three months starting Jan. 14 and ending April 12, according to
U.S. temperatures will rise between 2 and 4 degrees Fahrenheit in most areas
in the next few decades, according to the draft report. Sea levels are expected
to rise between 1 foot and 4 feet globally by 2100, the draft states. Nearly 5
million Americans live within four feet of local high-tide levels, according to
Heat waves, extreme precipitation events, and flooding in the Northeast will
pose a challenge to the region's environmental, social, and economic systems,
according to the draft. “While a majority of state and several municipalities
have begun to incorporate the risk of climate change into their planning
activities, implementation of adaptation is still at early stages,” the draft
Ocean temperatures will continue to rise in the future, the draft report
states. Ocean acidification, which results from the ocean absorbing human-caused
carbon dioxide emissions, will alter marine ecosystems “in dramatic yet
uncertain ways,” impacting the entire marine food chain, the draft states. The
draft projects significant habitat loss for ocean life due to climate change,
particularly in the Arctic and in coral reef systems. Also, climate change may
significantly increase costs to U.S. businesses related to ocean transportation
and recreation while disrupting public access to and enjoyment of ocean areas,
according to the draft report.
The committee expects to receive thousands of comments during the comment
period, said Jerry Melillo, a scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory in
Woods Hole, Mass., and chairman of the 60-member advisory committee. Melillo was
speaking at the meeting via teleconference.
A report on climate science and climate change impacts is due to Congress
every four years under the Global Change Research Act of 1990. Only two reports
have been completed since the law passed, however, one in 2000 and one in 2009
(69 WCCR, 4/10/12).
The draft, which has more than 1,000 pages, contains 30 chapters covering
climate and science, different regions of the United States, and other topics,
Jacobs said. More than 240 authors contributed to the report. In addition to
making the report publicly available, the committee provided a draft to the
National Research Council Jan. 11 for comment.
At the end of the comment period, the committee will review and respond to
comments, and then submit the report to the government in the fall.
The current version is a product of the federal advisory committee and is not
yet an official federal document, Jacobs said. It will become a federal document
when the committee submits it to the National Science Technology Council Oct. 7.
The council is expected to review, modify, and approve a final draft by Jan. 30,
The final version will be available only electronically, Jacobs said, though
a paper summary will be available.
Recent changes made to the draft include the addition of a number of climate
change mitigation activities currently under way at the local, regional, and
federal levels, Melillo said. The committee has also made changes to portions of
the report dealing with sea level rise projections after holding conference
calls with experts on the issue, Melillo said. “The upper bounds of sea level
rise are dependent on ice sheet dynamics,” which are complex, he said.
“This is a day we've been waiting for,” Melillo said. “Now we have to await
the comments both from the Academy and the public. It's a very good start on a
critical issue for the nation and the world.”
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), said in a Jan. 11 statement on the draft
assessment, “This draft report sends a warning to all of us: we must act in a
comprehensive fashion to reduce carbon pollution or expose our people and
communities to continuing devastation from extreme weather events and their
The advisory committee plans to issue interim reports in between the
four-year assessments, Jacobs said, including reports on food security and