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“Understanding the complex, changing planet on which we live, how it supports life, and how human activities affect its ability to do so in the future is one of the greatest  intellectual challenges facing humanity.  It is also one of the most important challenges for society as it seeks to achieve prosperity, health, and sustainability.”
National Research Council

 

Weather and climate — both good and bad, over short and long terms — affect our economy, health, safety, and security.

More than 75 percent of natural disasters around the world are triggered directly or indirectly by weather and climate.   One doesn’t have to look beyond Hurricane Katrina and the 2007 California wildfires to see the devastating impacts to our nation’s citizens and economy.  These two events alone caused well over $100 billion in losses and displaced millions of people.   Destructive and politically charged droughts such as the current ones in the southeastern and southwestern U.S. are forecast to become more frequent and more severe as climate continues to warm.  More than a quarter of the U.S. gross national product (over $2 trillion) is sensitive to weather and climate events and affect our health, safety, economy, environment, transportation systems, and national security.  Each year, our nation sustains billions of dollars in losses in weather-related damages associated with hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires, flooding, heavy snows, and drought.  All 50 states are impacted by these events.  While the threats associated with extreme weather and climate change are substantial, climate change also offers adaptation advantages of considerable economic significance, including those associated with  water, food and energy sustainability.

The United Nations 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report outlines how humans are contributing to climate change and explains that we are already committed to a significant level of climate change over the next few decades regardless of our near-term strategies.   Regional impacts of these changes are not well known and are a very important research area.  Continued study of the science of weather and climate, deeply understanding the global and regional impacts of climate change, and having the tools to make our nation more resilient to these hazards make these areas of study vitally important to our future.  

 
 
   

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