Joe Biden delivers remarks during a climate event at the White House

New U.S. Climate Report Paints a Desperate Need for Change

It's not looking good, guys.

Every five years, the United States publishes a National Climate Assessment addressing the global climate crisis, plans to curb carbon emissions, and America’s progress toward relying on renewable resources. This year’s report is not looking good.

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Scientists involved in producing this year’s report concluded that irreparable damage due to global climate change is all but imminent, and no corner of the United States has remained unaffected. Unless big changes are made, and fast, the domino effect of a rapidly warming planet will take down economies, agriculture production, housing markets, and more.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that ecological disasters across the globe appear to be worsening every year. That’s because they are. While natural phenomena are not caused by climate change (hurricanes, wild fires, drought, etc.), they’re certainly exacerbated by it. This year’s Assessment made a specific note of that and identified the need to strengthen infrastructure in areas particularly affected by these disasters. The trouble is that building new systems to cope with the symptoms of climate change is not nearly as helpful as treating the cause. And both of those things are expensive. Like, really expensive.

In 2023 alone, the United States has seen over $1 billion in damage caused by ecological catastrophes. Combine this with the fact that disasters have increased in frequency year after year, and you can see why finding solutions to the problem has been eclipsed by finding adaptations to it.

The Climate Assessment made a note of the severity of our planet’s trajectory and what that means for humanity, but it also points to the indirect impact that climate change will have on our daily lives. Increased spending on mitigation and infrastructure puts a dent in the U.S. economy, which tanks the housing market. Climate changes in agricultural regions make growing crops difficult (and more expensive) or outright impossible. A dying agriculture industry leads to millions of Americans losing their jobs. You get the idea.

You’d think the severity of the above consequences might light a fire under U.S. lawmakers to step up and do something, anything, to halt the climate crisis. It seems that worshipping at the altar of capitalism does not call for taking proactive steps toward defending the survival of the human race.

While the U.S. has taken some action in addressing the imminent danger of climate change, it hasn’t done enough. In order to actually halt the effects of global warming, the U.S. would need to reduce its carbon emissions by 6% annually in order to be in line with international goals. Between 2005 and 2019, we only saw a 12% decrease in emissions. That’s less than 1% each year. Again, it’s not nothing, but it’s basically nothing.

There’s still hope, despite evidence to the contrary: Scientists project that an immediate halt to all carbon emissions would bring an end to rising temps across the globe. Lofty, but not impossible. Doing so would avert the very worst effects of climate change, namely making the planet hostile to human life. Upon taking office, President Biden signed into law a $50 billion climate change action plan, which seeks to reduce pollution and protect public land and waters. The Biden Administration also announced in this year’s Climate Assessment that an additional $6 billion has been allocated to boost “climate resilience efforts,” support conservation efforts, and promote environmental justice in underserved communities.

In sum, the Earth is on fire. We HAVE the fire extinguisher, we just need to use the damn thing.

(featured image: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

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Scout (she/her/hers) is a freelance news writer for The Mary Sue. When not scrolling Twitter, she's thinking about scrolling Twitter. She likes short walks on the beach, glitter pens, and burnt coffee. She does not read the comments.