WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGRP), comprised of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and 13 other Federal agencies, today announced the release of the Fifth National Climate Assessment (NCA5), which found that Americans are experiencing increased risks from extreme weather events that are exacerbating social inequities. The report also found that the United States is taking concrete action to combat climate change, which presents an opportunity to create a more resilient nation. DOE researchers were among the nearly 500 authors who contributed to the report, the fifth iteration of the National Climate Assessment since it was first released in 2000. DOE, through energy and climate investments and policies in President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, is delivering funding to communities around the country and working on technologies that can mitigate the impacts of climate change and achieve the President’s goal of a net-zero economy by 2050.
“The Assessment is a stark reminder that, if we don’t act with urgency to tackle the climate crisis, Americans will experience increased suffering at the mercy of a changing environment,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “A bright spot in the sober assessment of where we are and where we could end up is the work we have been doing collectively as a country to reduce emissions and deploy alternative energy sources. I am proud of the DOE experts who contributed to this report and provided us with this eye-opening look at the existential threat of climate change and the opportunities to curb its worst impacts.”
The National Climate Assessment is an authoritative assessment of the science of climate change with a focus on the United States and serves as a foundation for efforts to assess climate-related risks. It also helps inform decisions by policymakers around the country about how to respond to climate change.
The key takeaways from the NCA5 are:
- The United States is taking action on climate change. In every single region of the country, mitigation and adaptation efforts are underway. Since 2007, emissions, energy intensity, and emissions intensity have decreased while both the population and gross domestic product have grown.
- People in the United States are experiencing increased risks from extreme events. Many of the climate conditions and impacts people are experiencing today are unprecedented over thousands of years. People across the United States are experiencing warmer temperatures and longer lasting heatwaves and heavy precipitation, drought, flooding, wildfire, and hurricanes, are increasing in frequency and/or severity.
- Climate change exacerbates social inequities. Underserved and overburdened communities face disproportionate risks and impacts from climate change, which exacerbates social and economic inequities and contributes to persistent disparities in the resources needed to prepare for, respond to, and recover from climate impacts.
- Available mitigation strategies can deliver substantial emissions reductions, but additional options are needed to reach net zero. Limiting global warming to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels requires a path to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Existing and planned fossil fuel infrastructure will produce emissions that will set the planet on a trajectory to exceed 2.7 degrees in the coming decades. To reach net-zero emissions, additional mitigation options need to be explored and the United States will need to add new electricity-generating capacity, mostly wind and solar, faster than ever before.
- Climate action is an opportunity to create a more resilient and just nation. In addition to reducing risks to current and future generations, climate action can result in a range of immediate or near-term benefits that outweigh the costs, with the potential to improve well-being, strengthen resilience, benefit the economy, and, in part, redress legacies of racism and injustice.
The USGRP is comprised of the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Health and Human Services, the Interior, and Transportation; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; the National Science Foundation; and the Smithsonian Institution.
DOE, through the Office of Science and its National Laboratories, contributed substantially to the scientific data NCA5 is based on by, for example, supporting the Energy Exascale Earth System Model simulation that reduced the uncertainty around future temperature estimates associated with the doubling of carbon dioxide. Climate observations conducted using DOE’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement user facility—with locations in Alaska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and the Azores—strengthened and increased the accuracy of those simulations.
The NCA5 leadership team included five DOE representatives:
- Renu Joseph, Physical Scientist, Office of Science
- L. Ruby Leung, Battelle Fellow, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
- Peter Thornton, Director, Climate Change Science Institute, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
- Robert W. Vallario, Physical Scientist, Office of Science
- Craig D. Zamuda, Director, Sustainability Performance Office, Office of Management
Along with the NCA5 and as part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, the Biden-Harris Administration also announced today up to $3.9 billion in funding available through DOE’s Grid Resilience and Innovation Partnerships (GRIP) Program. Supported by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the GRIP Program enhances grid flexibility and resilience against growing threats of extreme weather and climate change while supporting meaningful community and labor engagement, investing in the American workforce, and advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. This is the second round of GRIP funding after DOE announced $3.46 billion in investments for 58 projects across 44 states in October.
Although the NCA5 has just been released, DOE’s activities are already addressing many of the issues raised in the report. The Energy Earthshots Initiative that is accelerating breakthroughs of more abundant, affordable, and reliable clean energy solutions within the decade is providing new options to reach net-zero.