Forget for a moment the staggering irony of the Trump administration releasing a climate report with dire implications. Focus instead on what’s coming, and it’s not good.
Think about the big-time weather disasters in recent years, and that 500-year flood episodes now occur multiple times in a decade. Think monster hurricanes, all-consuming wildfires, mega-drought eras. All of these events now bigger, more intense and more destructive.
Before the climate-change skeptics have a hissy fit, considering that these predictions are coming from a White House that is the bastion of science skepticism, the report pretty much says the same things the science community has been saying for years — human activities are exacerbating the weather problems, and if we don’t change our ways, bad things are on the horizon.
The federal report issued last Friday frequently contradicts President Trump’s assertions about climate change. The National Climate Assessment was written months before the current fires in California, and even before Hurricanes Florence and Michael smashed the Eastern Seaboard and Florida Panhandle.
The report claims warming has “already become more frequent, intense, widespread or of long duration.” The report also points out that the last few years have obliterated records for harmful weather, costing nearly $400 billion since 2015.
For most Californians the report states the obvious. This state’s otherwise glorious weather for folks who enjoy outdoor activities is a function of drought conditions that increase the potential for the types of wildfires we’ve been watching in recent weeks, many of us thinking, when will it come after us?
Trump administration officials probably weren’t keen to release such a report, based on the president’s public pronouncements about climate change and the questionable science behind it, but they really had no choice. Such reports are mandated by federal law, and must be made public every few years.
The 2018 report is based on more than 1,000 previous research studies. It lays out how atmospheric warming from the burning of coal, oil and gas is hurting virtually every region of the country, and explains how it impacts various sectors of the U.S. economy, including energy and agriculture — both of which are important components of the Central Coast’s economy.
Economic losses are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of this century. It will be especially costly for coastal regions — that’s us — because of rising seas and altered weather patterns, which will lower property values, according to the federal report. In some low-lying coastal areas, flooding will likely force people to evacuate, permanently.
The continental U.S. has warmed 1.8 degrees since 1900, with 1.2 degrees in the last few decades. By the end of the century, the U.S. will be 3 to 12 degrees hotter, depending on how much greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere.
Skeptics take aim at the warming aspect of climate change, pointing to fierce blizzards pounding the Northeast, about which President Trump tweeted, “What happened to global warming?” In fact, global warming changes weather patterns, which contribute to everything from harsh, out-of-season blizzards to mega-drought.
While the political arguments rage on, perhaps the best course for folks living here on the Central Coast is to prepare for what’s coming — if only we could know what that will be.
If there is a years-long drought, we need to be ready for big wildfires. Water availability will become a major issue, especially with regard to local agriculture, the region’s top industry.
Skepticism won’t help us. Preparation will.