Water: Potential Consequences of Climate
Variability and Change
Report Looks at Likely Effects of
Climate Change on United States Water Resources -- and the
News Isn't Good
National Assessment of the Impacts of Climate Variability
and Change (PDF) was a groundbreaking attempt to evaluate
the impacts of climate change on the United States.
Led by the United States Global Change Research
Information Office, the National Assessment drew on hundreds
of top scientists with expertise in different areas to create
a peer-reviewed compendium of the best information then
available on climate change.
The Pacific Institute's Dr. Peter Gleick was
tapped to be lead author of the analysis for U.S. water
resources, which was published by the Pacific Institute
and the U.S. Geological Survey in December of 2000.
"Water: The Potential Impacts of Climate
Variability and Change" finds that United States water
resources are seriously threatened by climate change. Climate
change, or global warming, as it is sometimes called, will
lead to significant changes in the timing and location
of rain and snow in the United States (and elsewhere). By
upsetting the current patterns of precipitation, cities,
states, and farming communities face serious threats to
their water supplies. Regions dependent on snow-fed water
supplies will be especially threatened as rising temperatures
change snowfall and snowmelt dynamics.
Many other changes are likely, including effects
on water quality, reservoir reliability, and storm frequency
and intensity. The National Assessment water report describes
these impacts, summarizes the levels of certainty and uncertainty
involved, and offers recommendations for additional research
National Assessment (PDF) water sector report is available
from our website without charge and the full
report is available from the Global Change Research
A related resource for researchers is the
and Climate Bibliography -- an online, searchable bibliography
with over 3000 references to papers, reports and other work
on the subject of water and climate change.
More About the National Assessment
More than 40 new, peer-reviewed papers were
produced during the production of the National Assessment,
and nearly 1000 more were evaluated and summarized. The
report went through extensive external reviews, including
reviews by the different assessment teams, a diverse advisory
group, two separate formal external scientific review periods,
and a 60-day public comment period.
Despite this extremely rigorous process, the
industry-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) filed
suit against the Federal government in an attempt to suppress
the report. After an extended legal battle, the lawsuit
was dropped "with prejudice", meaning the courts
told the CEI that it could not be refilled because the suit
was entirely without merit.
Dr. Peter H. Gleick, a 2003 MacArthur Fellow
and lead author of the National Assessment's water report
noted after the legal decision that "This is a victory
for those who believe science has a role to play in informing
policy, and a defeat for those who would try to deny the
uncomfortable truth that climate change poses a serious
threat to our economy, environment and well-being."
More information on the legal battle can be
found on our website.