Thirteen federal agencies contributed significantly to the Fourth National Climate Assessment which was released Friday by the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), a federal program mandated by Congress.
The assessment report included dire warnings, noting that, 16 of the past 17 years have been the warmest ever recorded by human observation. It says planet Earth has warmed 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit since 1901 and the dominant cause is human activity.

Climate Assessment Report (Image courtesy of KOLR-TV)

“The wildfires we’ve seen in California, the extreme weather patterns we’ve been seeing, the massive amounts of drought we’ve been having on our farmers here in Missouri, are due to man-made climate change,” said Caleb Arthur, CEO, and founder of Springfield based Sun Solar, which also serves markets in the Kansas City, Columbia, and St. Louis areas.

A few other summary findings in the report included changes in the economy, as well as the health and well-being of Americans.

The report also states climate change will disrupt economic growth, causing losses in infrastructure, and impact air quality and the transmission of disease through insects and food.

Arthur said installing solar panels is a way to help mitigate climate change.  “Solar panels will obviously produce no carbon whatsoever and no pollution,” Arthur said.  Arthur said in a typical home, you’re saving about three loads of coal having to be burned to produce power for that home just by using solar panels.

He also contends solar panels work exactly the same as regular electricity with lower monthly costs than utility bills.  “There’s a big myth that solar is either completely free from the federal government or that it costs a million dollars and it’s hard to obtain,” explained Arthur.  “Your payment in your solar system in most parts of Missouri are going to be a lower payment than your current utility bill.”

But Missouri State University professor and head of the Department of Geography, Geology, and Planning, Toby Dogwiler, said bigger changes need to be made.

“Although those will make a dent, we’re going to have to address this through both national and international policy,” Dogwiler explained, “we’ve got to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide being released through our economic functions in the U.S. And around the world.”

He said even though the U.S. is just a small percentage of the planet in terms of population, it produces a lot of carbon dioxide.  “China surpassed us as the leading emitter of carbon dioxide. When you think about how many more people in China, they’re the biggest absolute emitter now for the last few years, but the U.S. is still the biggest per capita,” said Dogwiler.

He explained why we need to make a change as soon as possible.  “Just because of the carbon dioxide that’s already been released that we’re going to deal with those changes for probably at least the next 100 to 200 years,” Dogwiler said, “but if we stopped right now, we could head off the worst of the forecast. If we don’t stop for 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 more years, we’re going to keep getting further down that road where we’re past the point of no return.”

(Missourinet media partner KOLR-TV contributed this report)