The federally mandated study was supposed to come out in December but was released by the Trump administration on Friday, at a time when many Americans are on a long holiday weekend, distracted by family and shopping.
“The global average temperature is much higher and is rising more rapidly than anything modern civilization has experienced, and this warming trend can only be explained by human activities,” Easterling said.
Without significant reductions in greenhouse emissions, the annual average global temperature could increase 9 degrees Fahrenheit (5 Celsius) or more by the end of this century, compared with preindustrial temperatures, the report says.
The costs of climate change could reach hundreds of billions of dollars annually, according to the report. The Southeast alone will probably lose over a half a billion labor hours by 2100 due to extreme heat.
Farmers will face extremely tough times. The quality and quantity of their crops will decline across the country due to higher temperatures, drought and flooding. In parts of the Midwest, farms will be able to produce less than 75% of the corn they produce today, and the southern part of the region could lose more than 25% of its soybean yield.
Heat stress could cause average dairy production to fall between 0.60% and 1.35% over the next 12 years — having already cost the industry $1.2 billion from heat stress in 2010.
Impacts on our health
Heat and flooding
Wildfire seasons — already longer and more destructive than before — could burn up to six times more forest area annually by 2050 in parts of the United States. Burned areas in Southwestern California alone could double by 2050.
Dependable and safe water for the Hawaii, the Caribbean and others are threatened by these rising temperatures.
Along the US coasts, public infrastructure and $1 trillion in national wealth held in real estate are threatened by rising sea levels, flooding and storm surges.
Energy systems will be taxed, meaning more blackouts and power failures, and the potential loss in some sectors could reach hundreds of billions of dollars per year by the end of the century, the report said.
The number of days over 100 degrees Fahrenheit will multiply; Chicago, where these days are rare, could start to resemble Phoenix or Las Vegas, with up to two months worth of these scorching-hot days.
Sea levels have already gone up 7 to 8 inches since 1900. Almost half that rise has been since 1993, a rate of rise greater than during any century in the past 2,800 years. Some countries are already seeing land underwater.
By midcentury, it’s likely that the Arctic will lose all sea ice in late summer, and that could lead to more permafrost thaw, according to the report. As the permafrost thaws, more carbon dioxide and methane would be released, amplifying human-induced warming, “possibly significantly.”
What can be done
The report was created to inform policy-makers and makes no specific recommendations on how to remedy the problem. However, it suggests that if the United States immediately reduced its fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions, it could save thousands of lives and generate billions of dollars in benefits for the country.
Time for action
Reactions to the new report have been strong across the scientific community.
“In Houston, communities of color have endured back to back major weather events without the acknowledgment from Washington that climate change is the cause. We’ve known for years that it’s true and it’s important to our organizing and our local policy efforts that information like this is not only considered, but believed and acted upon.”
Scientists who have been raising the alarm about the negative consequences of climate change for years welcomed the findings.
CNN’s Brandon Miller, Gregory Wallace, Kevin Flower and Rene Marsh contributed to this report.