U.S. Global Change Research Program Releases NCA5 Report Detailing Nation’s Climate Risks and Opportunities

Posted on December 7, 2023 by Christina Carlton, Sustainability Analyst, G&A Institute

#About the Climate Crisis #Business & Society #Climate Change #Corporate Citizenship #Corporate Purpose #Environmental Protection #ESG #Global Reporting Initiative 

by Christina Carlton – Sustainability Analyst, G&A Institute

The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), a collaboration of Federal agencies, released its Fifth National Climate Assessment (the “NCA5″) in November 2023.

The latest assessment in the series is a broad overview of the progress (or lack thereof) made towards addressing climate change since the last report published in 2018. It also outlines current and future climate change risks as well as actions that could help to increase community resilience and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The importance of implementing actions equitably and inclusively is notably stressed throughout the report.

The overarching message consistently remains the same as the previous assessments in the series: climate change is happening now; it is costing us both economically and in quality of life; and we as a nation are not doing enough to address it. Every aspect of the report links back to these central points.

Specifically, the report highlights growing concern over the slow progress towards specific climate-related goals. It includes pragmatic suggestions and examples for adapting to currently occurring climate disasters, and even offers a few hopeful observations. The most significant points include:

  • Since 2018, efforts to adapt to climate change and reduce GHG emissions have expanded – every region in the U.S. has seen an increase in climate change adaptation since 2018.
  • However, despite these increased efforts, current adaptation efforts are not keeping pace with current or future climate-related risks and changes.
  • Positive: Over the past decade, costs for wind energy have dropped 70% while costs for solar energy have dropped an incredible 90%.
  • Positive: U.S. emissions peaked in 2007 and have since fallen even as the nation’s population and GDP have grown.
  • Negative: The current rate of GHG emissions decline is not enough to meet our climate commitments and goals; while we would need to see a 6% decline in emissions per year to meet these goals, we have recorded a decrease of less than 1% per year between 2005 and 2019.
  • Increasing risk: Billion-dollar climate-related disasters are increasing; these occurred once every four months in the 1980s but are now occurring on average once every three weeks.
  • The 40% of the total U.S. population (123 million people) that live in coastal communities are increasingly exposed to heightened risk from sea level rise and more frequent and intense extreme weather events.
  • Using conservative estimates and not accounting for loss of life, healthcare costs, or ecosystem damages, extreme weather events are costing the U.S. close to US$150 billion each year.

The NCA5 is divided into chapters which each contain key messages on a given topic. Regional-specific risks are addressed for each of the 10 regions of the U.S., and additional chapters focus on topics ranging from water, agriculture, and forests to transportation, air quality, and social systems. The final two chapters of the report specifically focus on adaptation and mitigation, and both emphasize the importance of a just and equitable climate strategy.

In an effort to communicate the seriousness of inaction, there is a great deal of emphasis in NCA5 on climate-related risks and opportunities measured in economic terms. This reflects the language broadly used in corporate sustainability reporting and is a decidedly profit-focused approach. However, the advantage of using the language of risk and opportunity is that it more easily conveys direct impacts facing average citizens.

There is also a repeated return in the NCA5 to the theme of choice. The authors are clear that the worst climate-related risks are not inevitable. The choices made at the local, regional, and national levels will shape future warming. To help make this ability to choose even clearer, the NCA5 has made the report data accessible through companion tools such as the NCA5 Interactive Atlas and the Climate Mapping for Resilience and Adaptation. Here it is possible to visualize the exact climate-related risks facing your region and hometown.

The resulting effect of the report’s focus on economic impact and choice is an overall tone that is decidedly sober. There is no panic or hyperbole – just a very calm and clear examination of the consequences we will face if we continue down our current path.

There are 14 federal agencies involved in the efforts to assess, track, and analyze how climate change is impacting people and ecosystems across the country.  Earlier in the year the USGCRP included the Department of Homeland Security as the 14th member.

The NCA5 is available at:  https://nca2023.globalchange.gov/

Christina Carlton, G&A Sustainability Analyst

Christina Carlton is a Sustainability Analyst at Governance & Accountability Institute. Her role includes supporting client needs through ESG data analysis, peer benchmarking, and sustainability trend research. She enjoys helping companies work towards comprehensive and meaningful ESG disclosures.

Christina holds a Master of Science degree in Environmental Policy and Management from the University of Denver and a Graduate Certificate in Wilderness Management from the University of Montana. She is passionate about biodiversity and natural resource conservation and is committed to helping advance efforts towards improved outcomes in these areas. She is also invested in helping clients integrate biodiversity and natural resource considerations into their ESG disclosures as these issues continue to rise in importance.

Before joining G&A Institute, Christina served for six years as an Intelligence Officer in the United States Air Force followed by a position as an Environmental Protection Specialist with the Department of Veterans Affairs. She is well-versed in policy development and analysis as well as conducting training engagements.