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Climate change affects your life in three main ways, warns a new report


Climate change is a costly, deadly, and preventable phenomenon, according to the latest National Climate Assessment, the most comprehensive and complex federal analysis of climate change to date.

Released every five years, the National Climate Assessment provides an evaluation of the impact of climate change on Americans' lives, conducted at the request of Congress. This new fifth edition paints a picture of a country simultaneously grappling with climate catastrophes and capable of sharply reducing emissions of planet-warming gases in the near future.

For the first time, the assessment includes separate chapters on the economic consequences of climate change for the American economy, as well as the complex social factors driving climate change and the country's responses. Unlike previous sections, the new assessment heavily relies on social sciences, including history, sociology, philosophy, and studies of indigenous peoples.

This new approach adds context and relevance to the compelling scientific conclusions of the assessment, emphasizing the disproportionate danger that climate change poses to poor people, marginalized communities, elderly Americans, and those who work outdoors. "Climate change affects all of us, but not all of us equally," says climatologist Katharine Hayhoe, one of the authors of the assessment. However, the report is infused with thematic research and research summaries, highlighting how "actions to combat climate change can create a more resilient and equitable country," she adds.

Additionally, this is the first time the National Climate Assessment will be translated into Spanish, although, according to the White House, the Spanish version will not be available until spring.

The National Climate Assessment is highly influential in legal and political circles and impacts everything from court cases determining who should pay for damage from wildfires to local decisions on the height of coastal barriers against floods. "It really shapes how people understand and therefore act on climate change," says Michael Burger, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University.

In preparing the report, hundreds of scientists from universities, industry, and federal agencies participated. They reviewed cutting-edge research published since the last report and contextualized it in the context of decades of fundamental climate research.

The fifth edition comes out at a time when millions of Americans are grappling with the consequences of rising temperatures on Earth. Dramatic and deadly wildfires, floods, and heatwaves claimed the lives of hundreds of people in the United States in 2023.

While federal spending on renewable energy and disaster preparedness has increased, the U.S. is also investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure that is incompatible with preventing catastrophic warming by the end of this century.

Here are three key findings from the Fifth National Climate Assessment. More detailed information on the specific consequences of climate change in your region can be found in the regional chapters of the assessment.

Windmills near Whitewater, California, in 2020. Reducing the use of fossil fuels and increasing investments in renewable energy, such as wind, will help the U.S. avoid billions of dollars in economic costs and help Americans live longer and healthier lives, according to the Fifth National Climate Assessment. RINGO H.W. CHIU/AP Climate change makes life more expensive Food, housing, the workforce – all of these become more expensive as the Earth heats up, according to the National Climate Assessment.