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Interviews with Fifth National Climate Assessment Author, Erin Lane

A short, three-part audio series speaking about the Fifth National Climate Assessment with Erin Lane, Deputy Director of the USDA Northeast Climate.

Lane speaks on her experience in being an author on the fifth National Climate Assessment (NCA5), about key messages from the Northeast chapter of NCA5, and elaborates on how climate action is an opportunity for all.

Part 1: On Being an NCA5 Author

Recorded in February, 2024

Hi, this is Erin Lane. I'm the deputy director for the USDA Northeast Climate Hub, and I'm also an author on the Northeast Chapter of the Fifth National Climate Assessment. It's a couple of years of writing and revising, and every sentence and every word is so carefully considered and chosen and reviewed and then considered and chosen and reviewed again. I remember I spent an entire eight hours one day on a portion of a sentence, but at least that phrase made it in to the final copy. So it was worth it. But it is a lot of effort to make sure that we get the words just right, that the wording is accessible and that it is... We are able to to back it up with solid science and that it is interpreted in a similar manner across our community, our scientific community. I'm in the unique position of having been on the Northeast chapter for both NCA4 and NCA5, and we really work hard to find current information so that each assessment is an update from the last. For the Northeast chapter, one of our biggest changes since NCA4 is a focus on mitigation and financing. So with NCA4, we noticed that our region was... seemed to be fairly ahead in making plans and starting to implement adaptation strategies. And then for NCA5, like in the time since NCA4, our region has really moved beyond that to actually seeing the results of some of these adaptation strategies and focusing on mitigating climate change, not just adapting to. And some of those solutions are the same and some are different. But that progression was noted and how we finance adaptation and mitigation solutions was also a big focus of the report.

Part 2: Key Messages from the Northeast Chapter

Recorded in February, 2024

Hi, this is Erin Lane. I'm the deputy director for the USDA Northeast Climate Hub, and I'm also an author on the Northeast Chapter of the Fifth National Climate Assessment. The key messages for our chapter are, first, that we are documenting changes in extreme events, and this includes heavy precipitation and heat waves. So states and localities, tribes, individuals are all acting to reduce carbon emissions and also implement projects like nature based solutions to adapt and to reduce the harmful impacts of climate change, like flooding and sea level rise. And in coastal habitats, there are changes that are occurring in really unprecedented ways. The where and when we find key species we care about is changing, like lobsters and oysters and clams. And then there's the Marine heatwaves, which are increasing in frequency and intensity in places like the Chesapeake Bay. And adaptation efforts are happening. Communities are noticing the impacts and they're taking action both in adaptation and in mitigation. So this includes coastal wetland restoration and changes in fishing behaviors, as an example. Another key message is that we see we see this in other parts of the U.S. as well, but the impacts do not affect everyone equally. So climate change related hazards like extreme heat and flooding and storms really have a disproportionate impact on frontline communities. And this is something that we are starting to really pay attention to, because these communities already have less access to health care, social services, financial resources, in some cases. And then they also face this higher burden from additional climate hazards. So local level efforts are starting to happen to help improve equity in climate adaptation. But this is still really uneven throughout our region and really throughout the country. Action to address climate change is happening, but the degree of implementation relies on funding. So localities in every state and D.C. are writing and enacting some level of climate action planning. Most state -- that's kind of unique for the country that our region, most states in our region, with the exception of West Virginia, have done climate impact assessments, climate action plans, greenhouse gas reduction plans. And many tribes are writing and implementing their own plans. So with the action becoming more common, innovative and inclusive planning efforts are advancing. But implementing both the greenhouse gas reduction plans and climate adaptation plans. They require funding both for the public sector, as well as businesses and individuals. So while the public sector funding has been the most common type of funding and financing used in the Northeast, private capital is beginning to invest as well in both mitigation and adaptation, including services to monitor risks and there's insurance investments as well.

Part 3: Climate Action is Opportunity

Recorded in February, 2024

Hi, this is Erin Lane. I'm the deputy director for the USDA Northeast Climate Hub. I was one of about 500 authors and another 250 contributors for the National Climate Assessment. We all noticed across the country and throughout sectors that the United States is taking action on climate change. Mitigation and adaptation efforts are underway in every U.S. region and they've expanded since NCA4 in 2018. U.S. emissions have fallen while our economy and population have grown. And that's something to take note of. We also are experiencing climate change right now, and harmful impacts for more frequent and severe extremes are interacting with other stressors. And the effects are rippling through the system, multiplying harms and leading to some cascading failures. So as temperatures rise, the U.S. is going to experience more and more severe impacts. And unfortunately, it's often underserved, overburdened communities that face the greatest risks. There is a disproportionate impact of climate change across the globe and in our country, and this is making it worse for social inequities, and it's contributing to persistent disparities in the resources that are needed to prepare for and respond to and recover from climate impacts. The other point that came through clearly throughout the assessment is that climate action is an opportunity. It's an opportunity to have a more resilient and just nation. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is achievable through many options which are currently available and they're cost effective to reach true net zero by mid-century. Additional options will need to be explored, which will help us avoid the worst of the impacts. But we do have solutions available here and now. We just need to understand that limiting severe climate risks to the U.S. requires deeper cuts in global net emissions, an acceleration of adaptation efforts. So we're doing, we're doing it. We need to do it more, and we need to dig deeper. So in addition to reducing the risks for future generations, climate action can result in a whole range of benefits that we will feel now and that will outweigh the costs in the long run. And the big picture is that with these changes, we have the potential to improve well being, strengthen our nation, strengthen resilience that will benefit the economy and possibly even start to address legacies of racism and injustice. Climate action is an opportunity.

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