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WKU professor part of committee that oversaw U.S. climate report

Tuesday’s release of the 1,100-page National Climate Assessment was a momentous day for WKU professor Rezaul Mahmood.

Dr. Rezaul Mahmood

Dr. Rezaul Mahmood

Dr. Mahmood, associate director of the Kentucky Climate Center and the Kentucky Mesonet, was one of about 60 members of the National Climate Assessment Development and Advisory Committee, which oversaw the 3½-year process that resulted in the largest, most comprehensive U.S.-focused climate change report ever produced.

This National Climate Assessment summarizes the impacts of climate change on the United States, now and in the future, and concludes that the evidence of human-induced climate change continues to strengthen and that impacts are increasing across the country. The highlights and full report are available at http://nca2014.globalchange.gov/

The report is important regardless of people’s views on climate change and global warming, Dr. Mahmood said.

“We should not be doing business as usual whether you believe the climate is changing or not, because based on current science, our climate has been changing,” he said. “More importantly, even if you say it is not happening, we must take measures to protect ourselves from floods, drought, severe weather and heat because we will have those no matter what. We must have policies, plans and infrastructure in place to protect ourselves from potential climate change impacts.”

Dr. Mahmood, a professor in WKU’s Department of Geography and Geology, was named to the NCADAC in 2011. The committee oversaw a team of more than 300 scientists and experts who developed the National Climate Assessment, which was written by more than 240 authors.

“It was a great learning experience,” Dr. Mahmood said of his work on the committee. “It was a very engaged process and the group did a very good job.”

The report was extensively reviewed by the public and experts, including federal agencies and a panel of the National Academy of Sciences.

The report’s overview notes: “Scientists who study climate change confirm that these observations are consistent with significant changes in Earth’s climatic trends. Long-term, independent records from weather stations, satellites, ocean buoys, tide gauges, and many other data sources all confirm that our nation, like the rest of the world, is warming. Precipitation patterns are changing, sea level is rising, the oceans are becoming more acidic, and the frequency and intensity of some extreme weather events are increasing. Many lines of independent evidence demonstrate that the rapid warming of the past half-century is due primarily to human activities.”

The report includes analyses of impacts on seven sectors – human health, water, energy, transportation, agriculture, forests, and ecosystems – and the interactions among sectors at the national level. The report also assesses key impacts on all U.S. regions: Northeast, Southeast and Caribbean, Midwest, Great Plains, Southwest, Northwest, Alaska, Hawai’i and Pacific Islands, as well as the country’s coastal areas, oceans, and marine resources.

Kentucky is included one of 11 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands included in the Southeast and Caribbean region, which “is exceptionally vulnerable to sea level rise, extreme heat events, hurricanes, and decreased water availability. The geographic distribution of these impacts and vulnerabilities is uneven, since the region encompasses a wide range of environments, from the Appalachian Mountains to the coastal plains,” the report said.

Dr. Mahmood said Kentucky fares well in the report but noted that the state is likely to face hotter and drier summers. However, he added, weather and climate trends don’t follow state borders. “If things happen in the Midwest or the Southeast, it will impact Kentucky,” Dr. Mahmood said. “We are not isolated.”

Contact: Rezaul Mahmood, (270) 745-5979.

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