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US government report warns of climate change impacts, receives mixed reactions

By Amanda Schmidt, AccuWeather staff writer
November 28, 2018, 12:16:09 PM EST

A landmark scientific report, the Fourth National Climate Assessment, issued by 13 federal agencies Friday, Nov. 23, presents the starkest warnings to date of the consequences of climate change for the United States.

The report was released just two days after President Donald Trump once again disputed the science of climate change. Trump questioned how the week of Thanksgiving’s cold spell could occur as the planet warms.

“Whatever happened to Global Warming?” he asked on Twitter on Wednesday.

On Friday, scientists working for his administration released the climate change report as if answering Trump’s question.

Trump climate change

U.S. President Donald Trump visits a neighborhood impacted by the wildfires in Paradise, Calif. on Nov. 17, 2018. Forest fires from California to Greece, droughts in Germany and Australia, tropical cyclones Mangkhut in the Pacific and Michael in the Atlantic: scientists say this year's extreme weather offers a glimpse of disasters to come if global warming continues unabated. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, file)

Climate change is already impacting the U.S. and could cost the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars a year without significant efforts to mitigate and adapt to it, according to the report.

The report includes more than 1,000 pages and the work of more than 300 leading scientists breaking down climate change’s impacts in specific regions across the country.

The report is the second volume of a non-partisan work of science mandated by Congress to inform policymakers about the reality of global warming.

Climate report - CA wildfires

In this Nov. 9, 2018 file photo, firefighter Jose Corona sprays water as flames from the Camp Fire consume a home in Magalia, Calif. A massive new federal report warns that extreme weather disasters, like California’s wildfires and 2018’s hurricanes, are worsening in the United States. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

The Bush, Obama and now Trump Administrations have all published reports showing the current and future impacts to the U.S. from climate change.

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The National Climate Assessment warns about the economic impacts. When asked about this portion of the assessment, Trump said he doesn't believe it.

"One of the problems that a lot of people like myself, we have very high levels of intelligence but we're not necessarily such believers," Trump said.

Press Secretary Sarah Sanders echoed Trump in a press conference on Tuesday, Nov. 27, saying they think the assessment is an extreme version.

“It’s not data driven. We’d like to see something that is more data driven. It’s based on modeling, which is extremely hard to do when you’re talking about the climate,” Sanders said.

The report examines the effects that climate change will have on health, local communities, the economy and infrastructure.

For example, crop production will decline, according to the report. Farmers will face extremely tough times. The quality and quantity of crops will decline across the U.S. due to higher temperatures, drought and flooding.

In parts of the Midwest, farms will be able to produce only about 75 percent of the corn they produce today, and the southern part of the region could lose more than 25 percent of its soybeans.

By 2100, higher temperatures in places like Yolo County, California, could make it too hot to cultivate walnuts. Climate change could also severely limit almond production in California.

Dairy cows are particularly sensitive to global warming. Heat stress negatively affects their appetite, lactation yield and rumen fermentation, which is a process that converts ingested feed into energy sources for the animal.

Frequent higher temperatures also lower milk quality, through reduced fat, lactose and protein percentages. In 2010, heat stress was estimated to have lowered annual U.S. dairy production by $1.2 billion.

Livestock for meat could struggle to find plants to graze on, and heat stress could impact their numbers.

cows farm

Ralph Caldwell feeds grain to cows at his farm in Turner, Maine, Thursday, May 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Human health will be put at risk due to the spread of food- and waterborne illness. Weather that is bad for farmers is good for spreading food- and waterborne diseases, and more people will be exposed to them.

Floods and heavy rains that can cause sewers to overflow can contaminate drinking water, leading to more stomach problems.

There will also be an increase in bugs. Insects, including mosquitoes and ticks, love warmer and wetter weather.

Therefore, diseases such as dengue, chikungunya and Zika will be more widespread. West Nile virus cases are expected to more than double by 2050 due to increasing temperatures.

Asthma and allergies will also be exacerbated due to climate change, according to the report. The pollen season will intensify and lengthen in parts of the U.S. due to higher temperatures.

Increased rain in some areas will encourage mold growth indoors, which can make asthma symptoms worse.

Poor air quality may also lead to more strokes and heart attacks.

These potential impacts are among many others listed in the report.

The National Climate Assessment is endorsed by NASA, NOAA, the Department of Defense and 10 other federal scientific agencies. The report also includes the scientific work of hundreds of scientists, many of whom are not associated with the government.

The report does not make policy recommendations, as it is designed to be a scientific resource for leaders at all levels of government.

However, it does suggest that if the U.S. engages in mitigation and adaptation actions, it could help to reduce the risks, saving thousands of lives and generating billions of dollars in benefits for the country.

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