Climate Change Panel Says Coast and Midwest U.S. at Risk for Extreme Weather

According to a government advisory panel on climate change, average U.S. temperatures could jump by as much as 4 degrees Fahrenheit in the coming decades. Last last week, the 60-member panel approved and released a draft report which says that many coastal areas face "potentially irreversible impacts" as warmer temperatures lead to flooding, storm surges, and water shortages.

Temperatures in the United States are predicted, on average, to increase by 2 to 4 degrees in the next few decades, according to the report. The panel also said:

“The chances of record-breaking, high-temperature extremes will continue to increase as the climate continues to change."

The panel is made of scientists from academia, industry, environmental groups, and the government. They prepared the reporter and its findings are considered to be the closest to a consensus about global warming in the U.S. Reports in 2000 and 2009 by the U.S. Global Change Research Program had concluded that carbon-dioxide emissions since the Industrial Revolution have led to a warming of the Earth's temperature, which threatens to cause extreme weather, drought and floods.

This latest report from the government panel "represents a consensus of the scientific community of what has changed and what impacts are across the country," said Katherine Jacobs, a White House official who is director of the assessment.

The 400-page report tackles for the first time efforts to adapt to global warming and efforts to mitigate its effects, said Jacobs.

Average U.S. temperatures are already up 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1895, with the majority of the increase occurring in the past three decades. Last year was the warmest year on record going back to 1895 for the 48 contiguous U.S. states, and was the second worst for weather extremes including arid conditions, hurricanes and wildfires, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The report notes:

“As a result of past emissions of heat-trapping gases, some amount of additional climate change and related impacts is now unavoidable. However, beyond the next few decades, the amount of climate change will still largely be determined by choices society makes about emissions.”

Not all of the outcomes of global warming will cause catastrophes, and in the Midwest and Northeast warming will mean a longer growing season. The report said that farmers should be able to adapt to warmer seasons for the next 25 years.

After the public has commented on the draft report, the Obama administration can rework or amend the findings before publishing a final report in March 2014. The 90 day public comment period starts on January 14.