May 09, 2014

White House releases 3rd National Climate Action Plan


Earlier this week, the White House released the third National Climate Action Plan outlining the current status of climate change and its impacts on the United States.  The report is wide-ranging and includes assessments on the impacts of climate change across the different regions of the U.S. It also highlights the following twelve key messages:

1. Global climate is changing and this change is apparent across a wide range of observations. The global warming of the past 50 years is primarily due to human activities.

2. Global climate is projected to continue to change over this century and beyond. The magnitude of climate change beyond the next few decades depends primarily on the amount of heat- trapping gases emitted globally, and how sensitive the Earth’s climate is to those emissions.

3. U.S. average temperature has increased by 1.3°F to 1.9°F since record keeping began in 1895; most of this increase has occurred since about 1970. The most recent decade was the nation’s warmest on record. Temperatures in the United States are expected to continue to rise. Because human-induced warming is superimposed on a naturally varying climate, the temperature rise has not been, and will not be, uniform or smooth across the country or over time.

4. The length of the frost-free season (and the corresponding growing season) has been increasing nationally since the 1980s, with the largest increases occurring in the western United States, affecting ecosystems and agriculture. Across the United States, the growing season is projected to continue to lengthen.

5. Average U.S. precipitation has increased since 1900, but some areas have had increases greater than the national average, and some areas have had decreases. More winter and spring precipitation is projected for the northern United States, and less for the Southwest, over this century.

6. Heavy downpours are increasing nationally, especially over the last three to five decades. Largest increases are in the Midwest and Northeast. Increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation events are projected for all U.S. regions.

7. There have been changes in some types of extreme weather events over the last several decades. Heat waves have become more frequent and intense, especially in the West. Cold waves have become less frequent and intense across the nation. There have been regional trends in floods and droughts. Droughts in the Southwest and heat waves everywhere are projected to become more intense, and cold waves less intense everywhere.

8. The intensity, frequency, and duration of North Atlantic hurricanes, as well as the frequency of the strongest (Category 4 and 5) hurricanes, have all increased since the early 1980s. The relative contributions of human and natural causes to these increases are still uncertain. Hurricane-associated storm intensity and rainfall rates are projected to increase as the climate
continues to warm.

9. Winter storms have increased in frequency and intensity since the 1950s, and their tracks have shifted northward over the United States. Other trends in severe storms, including the intensity and frequency of tornadoes, hail, and damaging thunderstorm winds, are uncertain and are being studied intensively.

10. Global sea level has risen by about 8 inches since reliable record keeping began in 1880. It is projected to rise another 1 to 4 feet by 2100. 

11. Rising temperatures are reducing ice volume and surface extent on land, lakes, and sea. This loss of ice is expected to continue. The Arctic Ocean is expected to become essentially ice free in summer before mid-century.

12. The oceans are currently absorbing about a quarter of the carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere annually and are becoming more acidic as a result, leading to concerns about intensifying impacts on marine ecosystems.

There’s a great deal of info in this report directly relating to the impacts of climate change on our ocean ecosystems.  Temperature changes, melting ice, ocean salinity levels, intensifying hurricanes, and rising sea levels are all changing the ocean landscape off our shores with direct impact to the local fish species that are found in our waters.  The report makes several references to these changes in our ocean environment:

“As ocean temperatures continue to rise, the range of suitable habitat for many commercially important fish and shellfish species is projected to shift northward. For example, cod and lobster fisheries south of Cape Cod are projected to have significant declines.” (Northeast Region)

“Similarly, in the oceans, transitions from cold-water fish communities to warm-water communities have occurred in commercially important harvest areas, with new industries developing in response to the arrival of new species. Also, warm surface waters are driving some fish species to deeper waters.” (Ecosystems)

“Some climate trends, such as rising seawater temperatures and ocean acidification, are common across much of the coastal areas and open ocean worldwide. The biological responses to climate change often vary from region to region, depending on the different combinations of species, habitats, and other attributes of local systems.” (Oceans)

“Significant habitat loss will continue to occur due to climate change for many species and areas, including Arctic and coral reef ecosystems, while habitat in other areas and for other species will expand. These changes will consequently alter the distribution, abundance, and productivity of many marine species.” (Oceans)

You can read the whole 3rd National Climate Action Plan by clicking here.