Fifth National Climate Assessment (NCA5) shows decline in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions even as population and GDP have grown
Since Day One, President Biden has delivered on the most ambitious climate agenda in history – signing into law the largest investment in climate action ever, including more than $50 billion in climate resilience, taking bold action to reduce climate pollution across every sector of the economy, protecting more than 21 million acres of public lands and waters, and restoring the vital role of science in guiding the Biden-Harris Administration’s decision-making. As a result of the President’s leadership and economic plan, Bidenomics, clean energy jobs are on rise across the country, companies have announced hundreds of billions of dollars in clean energy investments, and the U.S. is on a path towards cutting carbon pollution in half by 2030.
To equip Americans with the best available science and understanding of climate change impacts in the United States, President Biden is today announcing the release of the FifthNational Climate Assessment (NCA5). NCA5, which assesses changes in the climate, its national and regional impacts, and options for reducing present and future risk, indicates that not only is every region of the country already experiencing the impacts of climate change, but ambitious climate action is underway in every region as well.
Federal, state, local, and Tribal mitigation and adaptation actions have significantly increased, while zero-carbon and low-carbon energy options are rapidly becoming more affordable. The report also shows that climate change related extreme weather events still pose a rapidly intensifying threat – one that costs the U.S. at least $150 billion each year, and that disproportionately affects underserved and overburdened communities.
In coordination with the release of NCA5, President Biden is today announcing more than $6 billion in investments to make communities across the country more resilient to the impacts of climate change, including by strengthening America’s aging electric grid infrastructure, reducing flood risk to communities, supporting conservation efforts, and advancing environmental justice. The Administration is also releasing new resources to boost climate resilience efforts.
These announcements, which advance the Administration’s vision for a climate resilient nation, include:
Bolstering America’s Electric Grid
- Today, the Department of Energy is announcing $3.9 billion through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, to strengthen and modernize America’s electric grid in the face of more frequent and intense climate impacts to ensure affordable, reliable power to households across the country while supporting meaningful community and labor engagement, investing in the American workforce, and advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. This funding opportunity, the second under the Grid Resilience and Innovation Partnerships program, focuses on projects that will modernize the electric grid to reduce impacts from extreme weather and natural disasters, increase capacity and unlock renewable energy resources, mitigate faults that
lead to wildfires or other system disturbances, and deploy advanced technologies such as distributed energy resources and battery systems to provide essential grid services.
Advancing Environmental Justice
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will soon make $2 billion of funding available through its Environmental and Climate Justice Community Change Grants program to support community-driven projects that deploy clean energy, strengthen climate resilience, and build community capacity to respond to environmental and climate justice challenges. This program, funded by the Inflation Reduction Act, will invest in multi-year partnerships between community-based organizations, local governments, institutes of higher education, and federally- recognized Tribes. EPA also will provide $200 million in technical assistance and capacity building support for communities and their partners as they work to access these critical federal resources.
Reducing Flood Risk to Communities
- Today, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is announcing $300 million in a second round of funding through the Swift Current Initiative, funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, to help communities that have been impacted by catastrophic flooding during the 2022-2023 flood season become more resilient to future flood events. The Swift Current Initiative is focused on making mitigation assistance rapidly available for those who have suffered the effects of flooding disasters.
Boosting Climate Resilience
- The Department of the Interior (DOI) will announce $100 million in funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for water infrastructure upgrades that advance drought resilience in the West. This includes $50 million in project awards to improve the reliability of water resources and support ecosystem health in Western states, along with an additional $50 million funding opportunity for water conservation projects and hydropower upgrades. DOI is also announcing a newly established Kapapahuliau Climate Resilience Program and $20 million in initial funding available through the Inflation Reduction Act to enhance the ability of the Native Hawaiian Community to navigate the effects of climate change in ways that maintain the integrity and identity of the Native Hawaiian people while also maintaining and enhancing their capacity for coping, adaptation and transformation.
- The Department of Defense is launching a new Climate Resilience Portal at www.climate.mil. The creation of Climate.mil responds to requests from servicemembers for a one-stop focal point for accessing authoritative and actionable climate change information. Phase 1 of Climate.mil will consist of key climate tools, reference documents and resources, and climate terms and definitions, while Phase 2 will be for internal DOD users and provide more detailed information and guidance to consider climate change factors and impacts in all relevant and applicable decisions.
- In addition, the White House is publishing a synthesis of insights from the 13 roundtable discussions on climate resilience that the Administration hosted earlier this year as part of the White House Summit on Building Climate Resilient Communities.
This resource will help inform federal and non-federal actions, investments, and decisions to help build climate resilient communities from the local level on up.
Investing in Conservation
- The Department of the Interior will announce $166 million from the Inflation Reduction Act to meet critical ecosystem resilience, restoration and environmental planning needs for the National Park Service over the next 9 years. These investments build on an initial $44 million allocated earlier this year for work in fiscal year 2023, and advance the America the Beautiful Initiative, the Administration’s goal to restore and conserve 30% of lands and waters by 2030.
- The Biden-Harris Administration will join the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and public- and private-sector partners in announcing over $140 million in grants through the America the Beautiful Challenge. The 74 new grants will support landscape-scale conservation projects across 46 states, three U.S. Territories, and 21 Tribal Nations.
Today’s announcements build on the Biden-Harris Administration’s unprecedented commitment to tackling the climate crisis, strengthening America’s resilience, and delivering for underserved and overburdened communities.
Overview of the Fifth National Climate Assessment
The National Climate Assessment (NCA) is the most comprehensive federal effort to assess the state of climate science and communicate the impacts of climate change on people, communities, and ecosystems across the United States. For the first time ever, NCA5 includes a chapter on Economics, which highlights economic impacts and opportunities associated with climate action. NCA5 also includes a new chapter on Social Systems and Justice, which provides insights into how people understand, experience, and respond in different ways to climate change. This chapter, as well as NCA5’s 10 region-specific chapters, describes how certain communities experience disproportionate impacts from climate change.
Complementing the robust scientific findings of NCA5, the new web-based NCA Atlas allows Americans to explore climate projections in their own state or county to inform resilience, adaptation, and mitigation efforts. And, to improve inclusivity and accessibility, a forthcoming Spanish-language version of the entire NCA5 will be available for the first time early next year. NCA5 is accompanied by 92 original works of art, selected through the first-ever NCA Art x Climate initiative, and an original poem, “Startlement,” by the 24th Poet Laureate of the United States, Ada Limón.
Led by the U.S. Global Change Research Program and its 14 member agencies, NCA5 was thoughtfully developed over four years by approximately 500 authors and 250 contributors from every state, as well as Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. NCA5 includes input from extensive public engagement and an external peer review conducted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
Key highlights include:
The United States is Taking Action on Climate Change
Greenhouse gas emissions from the United States continue to fall even as population and GDP have grown. Across the country, climate actions are underway in every U.S. region. City- and state-level mitigation and adaptation actions have significantly increased. Zero-carbon and low- carbon energy options are rapidly becoming more affordable, transforming the energy system through increased electrification, energy efficiency, and use of clean energy technologies.
For example, wind energy costs dropped 70% and solar energy costs dropped 90% just over the last decade. In 2020, 80% of new energy-generation capacity came from clean energy. This energy transition will create new economic opportunities, as increased demand for clean energy and low-carbon technologies typically leads to long-term expansion in most states’ energy and decarbonization workforces.
Under President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, companies have announced $614 billion to build the manufacturing base of the future; over $392.2 billion has gone to upgrading our public infrastructure and investing in clean energy; and $8.8 billion in home energy rebates has been allocated to states to help families cut their energy costs by weatherizing their homes and increasing the efficiency of their appliances.
Americans are Experiencing Increasing Risks from Extreme Events
Total global greenhouse gas emissions from human activities continue to increase, resulting in rapid warming and other impacts. People across the United States are experiencing warmer temperatures and longer heatwaves. Many other extremes, including heavy precipitation, droughts, floods, wildfires, and hurricanes, are increasing in frequency and/or severity. Extreme events cost the United States close to $150 billion each year—a conservative estimate that does not account for loss of life, health care-related costs, or damages to ecosystem services.
This year set a record for the number of climate disasters that cost the United States over $1 billion. The United States now experiences a billion-dollar disaster approximately every three weeks on average, compared to once every four months during the 1980s. Every degree of global warming we avoid matters, because each increment of warming is expected to lead to more damage and greater economic losses in the United States. Each climate action taken to reduce and avoid warming reduces those risks and harmful impacts.
Climate Change Exacerbates Social Inequities
Underserved and overburdened communities face disproportionate risks and impacts from climate change, which exacerbates existing social and economic inequities. Some overburdened communities are at higher risk of climate impacts due to ongoing systemic discrimination, exclusion, and under- or disinvestment. These social inequities contribute to persistent disparities in the availability of resources needed to prepare for, respond to, and recover from climate impacts.
For example, neighborhoods that are home to racial minorities and low-income residents have the highest inland flood exposures in the South, and Black communities nationwide are expected to experience a disproportionate share of future flood damages. Black, Latino, Asian, historically redlined, and urban communities are disproportionately exposed to heat, as are those with low wealth and people experiencing homelessness. Indigenous Peoples face climate impacts that undermine their ability to maintain traditions, culture, and livelihoods. Sexual and gender minorities also face disproportionate impacts of climate change, often because of discrimination that limits their access to critical services and health care, especially during and after extreme events.
Available Mitigation Strategies Can Deliver Emissions Reductions, but the United States Must Go Further and Faster to Reach Net Zero
The risk of exceeding a particular global warming level depends on current and future emissions. This means that projections are conditional: when or if the world reaches a particular level of warming is largely dependent on the choices we make today and in the future. Limiting global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F) above preindustrial levels requires a path to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Progress towards net zero is underway in the United States, and is expected to be significantly aided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, the largest investments in climate and energy in American history. But further actions are needed to increase the pace, scale, and scope of the energy transition to ensure we reach net-zero emissions by midcentury.
Net-zero emissions pathways require widespread implementation of currently available and cost-effective options for reducing emissions, including the addition of new wind and solar capacity. Reaching net zero will also require rapid expansion of technologies and methods to remove carbon from the atmosphere to balance remaining emissions, as well as the exploration of additional mitigation and transformative adaptation options.
Climate Action is an Opportunity to Create a More Resilient and Just Nation
In addition to reducing risks to current and future generations, transformative climate action can deliver immediate benefits, with the potential to improve well-being, strengthen resilience, benefit the economy, and, in part, redress legacies of racism and injustice. Effective mitigation and adaptation efforts, rooted in equity, are needed to address disparities in climate risks, dismantle historic barriers, and create opportunities for all people to thrive.
A just transition can ensure equitable access to jobs; affordable, low-carbon energy; environmental benefits such as reduced air pollution; and improved quality of life for all. Effective and just transitions require reducing impacts to overburdened communities, increasing resources to underserved communities, and integrating diverse worldviews, cultures, experiences, and capacities into mitigation and adaptation actions.