On January 11, 2013, the U.S. National Climate Assessment and
Development Advisory Committee (NCADAC) released a draft
Climate Assessment Report (the draft Report) open for
public review and commentary until April 12, 2013. The
comprehensive report covers almost thirty different topics, is over
one thousand pages long, and was written by more than 240 authors.
It is expected that this report will shape the policy discourse for
years to come, both in the U.S. and Canada. For Canadian
businesses, the Report may provide insight not only into future
government policy but also the potential challenges and
opportunities that may arise in the context of a changing
The U.S. Global Change Research Act (1990) requires
that a report be submitted to the President and to the Congress
every four years summarizing the current scientific understanding
regarding climate change and its potential impacts. To date, only
two reports have been published pursuant to this mandate: the
First U.S. National Assessment was released in 2000. The
second report, Global Climate Change Impacts in the U.S.,
was published in 2009.
The draft Climate Assessment Report was released on January 11,
2013 and is open for public consultation until April 12, 2013. The
draft Report is expected to form the basis of the Third National
Climate Assessment Report following the period of public
consultation and further review by the NCADAC.
A Report Outline was published on December 8, 2011 listing
specific topics for discussion and inclusion in the 2013 National
Climate Assessment Report. These topics included human health,
water, energy, transportation, agriculture, forests, ecosystems and
biodiversity, along with specific regional profiles.
The draft Report ultimately concludes that some degree of
climate change, caused in large part by human activities such as
the burning of fossil fuels, is unavoidable. However, the draft
Report emphasizes that mitigation efforts - such as reducing
emissions - and adaptation efforts are part of a comprehensive
strategy to reduce the overall impact of climate change.
The draft Report focuses on the economic and health challenges
that climate change will pose, and stresses that changes will need
to be made in order to cope with extreme weather and climate
events. The draft Report also notes that climate change can present
new economic opportunities for those who are able to recognize and
overcome the challenges posed by climate change. Finally, the draft
Report acknowledges that the international context must be
considered in any comprehensive climate change plan.
It is expected that both this draft Report and the eventual 2013
National Climate Assessment Report will profoundly influence policy
discussions in the U.S., Canada and around the world. The Report
may make it more difficult to credibly assert that climate change
is not real, and may shift the discourse toward short-term and
long-term mitigation and adaptation efforts.
The Report makes it plain that the legislative status
quo is not enough:
Even absent a comprehensive national greenhouse gas policy, both
voluntary activities and a variety of policies and means at
federal, state and local levels are currently in place that lower
emissions. While these efforts represent significant steps towards
reducing greenhouse gases, and often result in additional
co-benefits, they are not close to sufficient to reduce total U.S.
emissions to a level consistent with the [rapid emissions
The Report identifies current state and federal initiatives
designed to reduce greenhouse gases or increase energy efficiency.
As certain initiatives emerge as "best practices,"
further legislative changes at the state and federal level should
be expected in the wake of this Report.
The Government of Canada has thus far said that it is adopting a
"continental approach" towards climate change and if the
Government continues along that path, the policy ramifications of
the Report will be felt not only in the U.S. but in Canada as well.
It is critical to note that the policy issues raised by the draft
Report are not limited to "the environment", but identify
municipal (roads, bridges, storm drains), health (the spread of
disease), leisure (lakes and rivers), and farming issues.
For Canadian businesses, this Report may provide useful insight
about the challenges and opportunities raised by climate change.
Companies that are able to recognize and react to the effects of
climate change will be in the best position to take advantage of
new opportunities in a changing world. The full draft Report is
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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