Last week the US federal government released the important National Climate Assessment, which stated that human health, life and economies are endangered as reliable clean water for agriculture, urban areas, industry and ecosystems are “increasingly in jeopardy.” Mandated by Congress, the National Climate Assessment is a mammoth and comprehensive report that involves more than 300 scientists, and besides the IPCC, is the greatest climate document produced to inform American leaders about changes to the atmosphere, land and water as the planet warms.
The Climate Assessment is broken up into 29 chapters with five appendices. The authors of the water chapter highlighted three interactions between climate change and human-constructed water systems (Chapter 3: Water):
- Water quality and water quantity (availability) will change;
- Water infrastructure like dams, levees, drainage systems are old and deteriorating while they remain poorly designed for a more volatile climate than the 20th Century conditions for they were built, and;
- Water managers must prepare for a greater range of problems and due to climate impacts.
“You could talk about a lot of impacts to water. We chose to talk about infrastructure because no one is highlighting that,” said Upmanu Lall, lead author of the report’s water chapter, in his interview with Circle of Blue.
The Trump administration failed in its attempt to bury the important report with the day-after-Thanksgiving (Black Friday) release. Besides the administration’s unwavering policy support for fossil fuels, the downplaying of the assessment happened in part because the president does not personally “believe” in climate change even as empirical evidence of the physical shifts that have already reshaped natural and human systems remain irrefutable.