Unveiling the third U.S. National Climate Assessment, the White House on Tuesday said findings underscore the need for "urgent action" to combat threats from climate change and protect citizens and the economy.
Developed over four years by top climate scientists and technical experts and information gathered through town hall meetings, public-comment opportunities, and technical workshops across the country, the assessment represents the "most authoritative and comprehensive knowledge base about how climate change is affecting America now, and what's likely to come over the next century," the White House said.
The assessment is part of the Climate Action Plan launched by President Obama last June, which lays out concrete steps to cut carbon pollution, prepare America's communities for climate-change impacts, and lead international efforts to address this global challenge.
For agriculture, the report said climate disruptions have been increasing and are projected to become more severe over this century.
While some U.S. regions and some types of agricultural production will be relatively resilient to climate change over the next 25 years or so, the report said others will increasingly suffer from stresses due to extreme heat, drought, disease, and heavy downpours.
"From mid-century on, climate change is projected to have more negative impacts on crops and livestock across the country – a trend that could diminish the security of our food supply," the report says. "Climate change effects on agriculture will have consequences for food security, both in the U.S. and globally, through changes in crop yields and food prices and effects on food processing, storage, transportation, and retailing.
"Adaptation measures can help delay and reduce some of these impacts," the report added.
In response to the report, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said it confirms that climate change is affecting critical sectors of the economy, like agriculture.
"At USDA, we're working closely with our nation's farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to help them manage the negative impacts of climate change, reduce their energy costs, and grow the bioeconomy to create jobs in rural America," Vilsack commented.
Rural communities are especially at risk, USDA said. Even though they are "tremendously resilient," they will face particular obstacles in responding to and preparing for climate change risks. In particular, USDA said those issues will be physical isolation, limited economic diversity, and higher poverty rates, combined with an aging population.
USDA outlined several steps the agency is taking to tackle climate change, particularly the USDA Climate Hubs, research grants in partnership with the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and renewable energy projects.
Also included in climate mitigation efforts are plans to accelerate adoption of waste-to-energy projects on U.S. dairies, introduced earlier this year.
Find the whole interactive report on www.globalchange.gov.