U.S. Publishes Fifth National Climate Assessment

On November 14, 2023, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) published the Fifth National Climate Assessment. The National Climate Assessment (NCA) is a federal initiative formed under the Global Change Research Act of 1990, which requires a report to the President and the Congress every four years that integrates, evaluates, and interprets the findings of the USGCRP; analyzes the effects of global change on the natural environment, agriculture, energy production and use, land and water resources, transportation, human health and welfare, human social systems, and biological diversity; and analyzes current trends in global change and projects major trends for the subsequent 25 to 100 years. Before this NCA, four assessments were published (in 2000, 2009, 2014, and 2017).

This most recent NCA (NCA5) is extensive, accompanied by significant supplemental materials, among them webinars, a companion podcast, and workshops. Some key findings:

  • Heatwaves, hurricanes, droughts, and floods cost the United States $165 billion per year.
  • S. greenhouse gas emissions are decreasing (12% decrease from 2005 to 2019) but not quickly enough to achieve U.S. emission reduction or United Nations targets for limiting global temperate rise (U.S. emissions would need to decrease 6% annually to meet goals).
  • Advances in attribution science allow for improved understanding of how climate change increases the intensity and frequency of natural disasters (hurricanes, droughts, etc.).
  • The effects of climate change are distributed unevenly geographically and socioeconomically, but all regions are affected (e.g., sea level rise at the coasts, increased flooding in Appalachia, more tick-borne illness, and less snow in the north).

Upon release of NCA5, the Biden administration announced more than $6 billion in investments to strengthen and modernize the electric grid, reduce flood risks to communities, boost resiliency, invest in conservation, and advance environmental justice. The investments include $3.9 billion through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to update the electric grid and $2 billion through the Environmental Protection Agency Environmental and Climate Justice Community Change Grants to support community-driven projects.

This post is as of the posting date stated above. Sidley Austin LLP assumes no duty to update this post or post about any subsequent developments having a bearing on this post.