FROM RECORD-BREAKING wildfires that destroyed more than 14,000 homes in California, to hurricanes that devastated parts of Florida and much of Puerto Rico, long-predicted impacts of climate change are here and wreaking havoc.
In the fourth U.S. National Climate Assessment that was released Friday, scientists catalogued the ways that consequences of climate change are already being felt across the country.
"Earth's climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities," the report read. "The impacts of global climate change are already being felt in the United States and are projected to intensify in the future – but the severity of future impacts will depend largely on actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the changes that will occur."
While it is difficult to attribute individual storms and other disasters, such as tornadoes or wildfires, to climate change, long-term shifts in temperature, precipitation and other trends, have created the conditions for such weather phenomena.
Hurricanes in the North Atlantic have become stronger, more frequent and longer-lasting compared to the 1980s; and winter storms have similarly increased in frequency and intensity, and seen their paths shift northward compared to the 1950s. Meanwhile average temperatures have climbed by as much as 1.9 degrees Fahrenheit since record-keeping began in 1895, although much of that increase has occurred in just the past 50 years. And precipitation has increased overall, although the change has varied from region to region.
"Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present," the report read. "Corn producers in Iowa, oyster growers in Washington State, and maple syrup producers in Vermont are all observing climate-related changes that are outside of recent experience. So, too, are coastal planners in Florida, water managers in the arid Southwest, city dwellers from Phoenix to New York, and Native Peoples on tribal lands from Louisiana to Alaska."
The congressionally mandated report renewed calls for action from environmentalists, climate scientists and a number of world leaders. Notably, representatives from around the world will be gathering in Poland next month for the latest United Nations summit on climate change. Meanwhile, as fire officials announced Sunday that the deadly Camp Fire in Northern California was finally contained, after leaving at least 85 people dead and hundreds more missing, emergency responders as well as policymakers called on the federal government to more proactive steps to address climate change.