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View From the National Climate Assessment

View From the National Climate Assessment

First published in 2000, the National Climate Assessment is a quadrennial assessment of the state of the changing climate in the United States and throughout the world. The purpose of the document is to review the emerging data and science on climate and make recommendations for policies affected by a changing climate. I was able to attend one of the community Climate Conversations conducted by the Keystone Center in preparation for the release of the 2012 version of the document.

There was a sober, rational mood in the room. Not one person, that I encountered, denied for a moment the reality of climate change. Indeed, there was universal acceptance that not only will climate change be an issue, but that climate change is already causing irreversible changes that will require adaptations in how and where we live our lives. From lawyers to scientists to farm implement salesmen, everyone was in agreement that something had to be done.  Interesting to note: the NCA us supposed to be updated every four years, but the chronology of the reports begins with a version in 2000 and then the next update is in 2009. An entire presidential administration failed to produce an update to a document that could have guided our national policy on everything from national security to agricultural practices.

I looked at the 2009 study, and found that behind all the hedging and rhetoric of our politicians, the scientists working on these assessments made some key finding. Climate change is happening, human activity is a contributing factor and the choices we make today will affect our future climate for better or worse. There was an irony in receiving this information in a plush hotel meeting room eating a catered lunch, waiting for our parking validation. At some point, we have to stop talking about what we should be doing, and start doing it. Tomorrow wouldn’t be soon enough.


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