“The news is not good, but it is also not surprising,” said University of Colorado’s Waleed Abdalati, a former NASA chief scientist who was not part of this report. “What we are seeing is a manifestation of changes that were anticipated over the last few decades.”
The 2,200-page report comes after five straight months when the globe set monthly and daily heat records. It comes as the U.S. has set a record with 25 different weather disasters this year that caused at least $1 billion in damage.
“Climate change is finally moving from an abstract future issue to a present, concrete, relevant issue. It’s happening right now,” said report lead author Katharine Hayhoe, chief scientist at the Nature Conservancy and a professor at Texas Tech University. Five years ago, when the last assessment was issued, fewer people were experiencing climate change firsthand.
Surveys this year by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research show that.
In September, about 9 in 10 Americans (87%) said they’d experienced at least one extreme weather event in the past five years — drought, extreme heat, severe storms, wildfires or flooding. That was up from 79% who said that in April.
Hayhoe said there’s also a new emphasis in the assessment on marginalized communities.
“It is less a matter … of what hits where, but more what hits whom and how well those people can manage the impacts,” said University of Colorado’s Abdalati, whose saw much of his neighborhood destroyed in the 2021 Marshall wildfire.
Biden administration officials emphasize that all is not lost and the report details actions to reduce emissions and adapt to what’s coming.
Americans on every level of government are “stepping up to meet this moment,” said White House science adviser Arati Prabhakar. “All of these actions, taken together, give us hope because they tell us that we can do big things at the scale that’s required, at the scale that the climate actually notices.”
By cleaning up industry, how electricity is made and how transport is powered, climate change can be dramatically reduced. Hausfather said when emissions stops, warming stops, “so we can stop this acceleration if we as a society get our act together.”
But some scientists said parts of the assessment are too optimistic.
“The report’s rosy graphics and outlook obscure the dangers approaching,” Stanford University climate scientist Rob Jackson said. “We are not prepared for what’s coming.”