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Two Independent Reports Stress the Gravity of Climate Change


Two major reports have recently been issued on the mitigation, adaptation, and perception of climate change in the United States and abroad.  The National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee (NCADAC), formed by a team of 60 members, issued a draft of its quadrennial report as mandated by the 1990 Global Change Research Act.  The second document, titled Global Risks Report 2013 and issued by the World Economic Forum, analyzes the risk perceptions for the global economy as seen by a group of 1,000 respondents from the industry, government, and academia. 


The NCADAC document describes at length the evidence, as well as mitigation and adaptation recommendations, for the continuous changes occurring in our atmosphere and, in consequence, around the entire globe.  It ascertains that climate change is a phenomenon driven in large part by human activity, and the burning of fossil fuels, in particular.  It moreover links the series of extreme weather events observed over the last several decades in the United States to climate change, and warns that these might intensify if the nation fails to successfully implement adequate mitigation and adaptation measures. 


Some problems foreseen by the report are water shortages, safeguarding food security, diminishing resilience of natural ecosystems resulting in more floods, droughts, and other extreme weather events, the increasing acidity of the oceans, and climate-change-related international crises, among others.


The report has been compiled in participation with the public, including non-governmental organizations, private and public decision-makers, researchers, and environmental managers.  It will now be subject to the scrutiny of the National Academies of Sciences and the public, after which the authors will submit it to the Federal Government as the Third National Climate Assessment Report.  The draft can be found here.  Click here if you would like to submit a public comment.


The Global Risks Report 2013 is based on a survey conducted on experts from the worlds of industry, academia, government, and civil society and concerns a group of 50 potential risks to the international economy.  According to the likelihood of occurrence, respondents indicated rising greenhouse gas emissions as the third  most important risk, right behind severe income disparity and chronic fiscal imbalances.  The increase in the concern for climate change was the second largest change of perceptions compared to the year 2012.  In the highest-impact category, the fifth most powerful perceived risk was the failure of the global economy to implement effective climate change adaptation measures.


Above and beyond percentages, bar charts, and statistics in general, the report points to the growing preoccupation of the global economic community with the adverse consequences of climate change.  The report effectively recognizes the respondents’ view that economic and environmental systems as strictly interdependent, and that stress on one will simultaneously result in stress for the other.  Is this a sign that the international economic community is finally recognizing and embracing the pressing need to adapt to climate change?  That might be the case, especially since environmental concerns never made the group of top five risks before 2011.  After that year, they have been ranked in the top likelihood and impact groups with striking regularity.


It remains to be seen, however, if perceived risks translate into concrete action to help attenuate the adverse impacts of the changes affecting our planet.


A video about the Global Risks Report from the World Economic Forum (WEF):