Hey Allison [Crimmins], thank you so much and thank you for your leadership on all of this. And welcome to all of you. I’m counting 288 people already and I’m sure it’s still ticking up.
So, let me begin with why we’re all here: why you’re all here, for the work that you’re doing. I mean, you’re coming together to create something that’s going to be important for millions of Americans all across the country: a national atlas about our climate – as it is, and as its rapidly changing – so that everybody can be prepared.
At some point over the next two years of this NCA-5 process, when you are up late into the night or working on a weekend – and, you know, trying to explain to a friend or a loved one, why you are doing this, why it matters, why do we need a National Climate Assessment – it’s really important to talk about that, because I know you’re all signing up for a lot of work.
Now, you know, they may say, “Well, you know, there’s an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, this IPCC thing, that already has looked at the climate and told us at a global level that there are threats to the planet.”
But I think what’s important for everybody out there to know, is that for something like the IPCC, the United States is just a sub-part of the region of North America. It does not have the resolution that you need for action. The IPCC report is obviously very important, but it is not the atlas you need to act.
It doesn’t speak to an almond farmer or an artichoke farmer in California’s Central Valley who’s struggling with severe drought year after year, and needs to know how trends in the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountain range are going to affect water availability and water quality – or how changes in extreme temperatures and drought are going to affect the health of workers in the field.
It doesn’t speak to the doctor who’s seeing cases of Valley Fever increase in those farm workers, as drier conditions across the Southwest cause increases in fungal spores and dust that normally would lie dormant in the soil, but end up causing disease – coccidioidomycosis, or Valley Fever – when they go airborne.
It doesn’t speak to a hospital manager in Galveston, Texas who needs to prepare patients against new health threats, or prepare the hospital operations for greater flood risks, or is thinking about how to mitigate the hospital’s own emissions.
It doesn’t speak to urban planners in Pittsburgh and Chicago and St. Louis who want to better understand flood risks so that they can allocate resources to retrofit local drainage systems.
It doesn’t speak to the environmental justice advocate in St. Charles Parish in Louisiana who wants to know what other frontline communities are doing to address climate change, what the best practices are, what actions may work in her own community.
It doesn’t speak to the homeowners in Oregon and Idaho who face greater and greater risks of wildfires each year that could burn their homes to the ground.
And it doesn’t speak to a small business owner in Bangor, Maine who wants to know how climate change could affect their operations and let them better anticipate the demands of customers.
That’s what all of you are doing here, and you’re doing it for those people and you’re doing it for a thousand times more of those people. That’s who you’re all working for, is for all of America, and all of its people. And that’s why we’re so grateful and it’s why I wanted to hop on at the beginning, to thank you for the collective brainpower that you have gathered together for something so important.
Last time we did a National Climate Assessment, NCA-4, it was written by about 350 authors. Now 450 of you are volunteering your time to help millions of people and help our country plan for its future.
You are an amazing group. I asked Allison, who’s doing this? And she let me know, you are from all over this country: from Jacksonville, Florida to Juneau, Alaska; from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Ypsilanti, Michigan; from Mayaguez in Puerto Rico to Mangilao in Guam; and from everywhere in between: Omaha; Laramie; Bloomington, Indiana; and more.
And the range of skills you’re bringing is extraordinary: you’re physical scientists and social scientists, pediatricians and epidemiologists, meteorologists, science writers, equity and environmental justice experts, economists, risk management advisors, resilience leaders, statisticians. And, whatever you are according to your CV, you’re all serving as science ambassadors: to bring crucial information to people who need it best and most, and to make it clear.
About half of you, nearly half of you, are from academia. Nearly half of you are from government agencies: federal, state, local, and importantly, tribal. And a bunch of you are practitioners, from nonprofits and from the private sector.
Two-thirds of you, this is the first time you’ve participated in this process, first time you’re writing a National Climate Assessment. And so, to that two-thirds of you, I want to say: welcome to this incredibly important endeavor, and it’s something you’re going to tell your families about having contributed to. You’re going to hold it up at the end and say, “I did this together with some pretty amazing people, and it matters.” And we’re so glad to have you, because we’ve put a priority on bringing a really wide range of perspectives and experiences to the National Climate Assessment, and by expanding the group in many ways, that’s possible.
And of course, for the veterans who have already participated in a National Climate Assessment: we are so glad to have you back, because your experiences in navigating this are going to be so useful. And to all the new folks, the fact that the veterans are back speaks volumes about how important they know this is.
So, it’s going to take two years to do this. It will be an extraordinary gift. And you all know why we need it now and why it’s more urgent than ever. I don’t have to tell you 2021 was the hottest summer on record. Extreme weather events in the past few months alone have struck communities that are home to more than 100 million Americans – roughly one-in-three Americans have been touched by one of these extreme weather events.
From record heat waves scorching the Pacific Northwest – who knew that Seattle could be that hot? Certainly not Seattle – to the wildfires in California that have reduced some towns and farms and forests to ash, to the flooding that we saw from Hurricane Ida – and not just along the Gulf Coast where you’d expect it, but in New York and New Jersey – and the deep freezes in Texas and Oklahoma last spring, it is clear: we are in uncharted territory.
And the argument that climate is changing – and that it’s changing as a result of human activity – it’s almost becoming unnecessary to make this argument because the climate is making it for us. We still, to occasional people, have to make the argument, but the evidence in front of our eyes is so compelling – in addition to the evidence we collect as scientists – that I think Americans know that this is important, know that we need this information.
So, you guys are making an atlas to help us move forward. It’s not going to take the journey by itself. It’s not going to solve climate change by itself. That task is in everyone’s hands; we’ve all got to do our part.
But it is an essential guidebook that you are writing. And when that is in the hands of a lot of people, it’s going to let us take a step on this journey into this uncharted territory, because you are going to be the advance team charting it. And people will know that they have the best available science at their fingertips to help guide them in their planning, and that they can make smart decisions guided by that science.
That’s the value of the National Climate Assessment. More than any NCA that came before, it is going to meet people where they are with the useful information that they need. And we need to put the power of that information into the hands of people everywhere, so that we can act rapidly, equitably, and effectively.
So I just want to thank all of you for the contributions that you’re going to make. If you didn’t know what you were signing up for fully – well, none of us do – I think you’re going to discover things that you didn’t even imagine need doing, as you actually enter into this. But I’m going to venture to say none of you are going to regret being part of this.
And what I do know is, all of us – everybody else, the other 300-plus million Americans – are going to owe an enormous debt of gratitude to you – and, by the way, to your families, for their support in your doing this. And please, on behalf of 300 million Americans, apologize to your families, for the nights that you’re working late and the weekends. But, it is going to make a difference. I and all of America are looking forward to your rigorous and clear guidance and assessment.
Thank you, Allison, thank you for your leadership again, and I’ll turn it back over to you. Thank you everybody.