Authored by 240 scientists, business leaders and other experts, the draft of the Third National Climate Assessment [PDF] that was released last week "delivers a bracing picture of environmental changes and natural disasters that mounting scientific evidence indicates is fostered by climate change: heavier rains in the Northeast, Midwest and Plains that have overwhelmed storm drains and led to flooding and erosion; sea level rise that has battered coastal communities; drought that has turned much of the West into a tinderbox," reports Neela Banerjee.
"Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present," the report says. "Americans are noticing changes all around them. Summers are longer and hotter, and periods of extreme heat last longer than any living American has ever experienced. Winters are generally shorter and warmer."
"The findings in the report are a three-alarm fire," said Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills). "Climate change is already causing widespread disruption across the nation. We are in deep trouble if we don't act forcefully this year."
Over at The Washington Post's Wonkblog, Brad Plumer shares one of the more striking graphics from the report, which shows projected temperature changes by 2100 under four different scenarios. Under the most extreme (but entirely plausable) scenario, "in which we continue to burn fossil fuels at our current rate with no effort to tackle emissions....average temperatures in the United States rise somewhere between 5°F and 10°F by century’s end (or 2.8°C to 5.5°C)," notes Plumer. "A few parts of the country get up to 15°F hotter. Needless to say, that’s significant."