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Three Takeaways from the Fourth National Climate Assessment

melting glacier

The fed­er­al government’s release of the Fourth Nation­al Cli­mate Assess­ment was big ener­gy and envi­ron­men­tal news, despite being released on the Fri­day after­noon after Thanks­giv­ing. The 1,600-page report is chal­leng­ing to digest. If you are inter­est­ed in read­ing an acces­si­ble overview of the report, I sug­gest sto­ries pub­lished by Vox and The Atlantic.

Here are three take­aways from the report that caught my eye:

1. Fos­sil fuel com­bus­tion accounts for approx­i­mate­ly 85% of total U.S. green­house gas emis­sions.” [Chap­ter 1/​Mitigation].

This is not a new find­ing but it puts in bold relief the reck­less­ness of the Trump administration’s focus on rolling back restric­tions on fos­sil fuel-relat­ed green­house gas emis­sions, includ­ing car­bon diox­ide from coal and cars, and methane from the oil and gas indus­try. Rather than con­front cli­mate change, the admin­is­tra­tion seems hell-bent on exac­er­bat­ing it.

2. The human health impacts of cli­mate change are severe. [Chap­ter 13/​Air Qual­i­ty; Chap­ter 14/​Human Health]

In addi­tion to increased deaths and injuries asso­ci­at­ed with hur­ri­canes, wild­fires, flood­ing, heat waves and oth­er extreme weath­er events (Chap­ter 14), Chap­ter 13 of the report describes how cli­mate change exac­er­bates exist­ing health chal­lenges asso­ci­at­ed with ozone and par­tic­u­late pol­lu­tion. Chang­ing mete­o­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tions due to cli­mate change are expect­ed to increase the for­ma­tion of ozone, and this cli­mate penal­ty” will lead to sub­stan­tial­ly more ozone pol­lu­tion-relat­ed deaths and ill­ness­es. Par­tic­u­late mat­ter, too, is expect­ed to increase due to more fre­quent and severe droughts and wildfires

3. Cli­mate change impacts raise seri­ous envi­ron­men­tal jus­tice issues. [Chap­ter 14; Fig­ure 14.2]

Across all cli­mate risks, chil­dren, old­er adults, low-income com­mu­ni­ties, some com­mu­ni­ties of col­or, and those expe­ri­enc­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion are dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly affect­ed by extreme weath­er and cli­mate events.”

communities at risk from health impacts of climate change