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Issue Background

Climate Change

Scientific understanding about climate change continues to advance, from the complex interactions that affect the planet’s weather to the effects we are feeling now and may experience in the future.  Our knowledge is enhanced both by new published research and the release of new comprehensive assessments by the U.S. National Climate Assessment and the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

We must continue to build on this information, as the effects of climate change are not trivial.  The Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates at least one third of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product is weather and climate sensitive, a potential impact of $4 trillion a year (in 2005 dollars).  Moreover, with climate change, extreme events such as heat waves, severe storms, and droughts are on the rise, leading to more severe wildfires, billions of dollars in lost productivity for agriculture, flooding on the coasts and near rivers, and lost lives.

The federal government plays a crucial role in carrying out and funding climate research, helping citizens and local decision-makers get access to information they need, and finding ways to help us prepare for, adapt to and mitigate those impacts.  Some of the federal agencies that are most active on climate change include: the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Climate change is also a hot topic among federal policy makers.  For example, the White House has released an Executive Order on Climate Preparedness, as well as a Climate Action Plan, and the EPA has proposed regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. In Congress, House and Senate caucuses have formed to raise awareness of the issue, and many bills have been introduced to further action to address or study climate change.  Unfortunately, most of those bills have little chance of passing. Climate research and mitigation efforts have also come under attack.  For instance, the fiscal year 2015 spending bills included language to:

  • Prohibit funding for efforts such as the National Climate Assessment;
  • Cut funding for NOAA climate offices;
  • Block the Department of Energy from funding climate modeling efforts ;
  • Eliminate funding for the EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations on power plants.

Such attacks will only undermine the critical information the public needs to cope with a changing climate.  Read AGU’s position on climate change.

"We must continue to build on this information, as the effects of climate change are not trivial."