Don't miss out

Don't miss out

Don't miss out

Water channels
Sign up to receive exclusive Climate insights
Sign up to receive exclusive Climate insights
Sign up to receive exclusive Climate insights
Want to hear more from our experts? Get the Climate newsletter.
Want to hear more from our experts? Get the Climate newsletter.
Want to hear more from our experts? Get the Climate newsletter.
Subscribe now

Ways to use the Fifth National Climate Assessment

Ways to use the Fifth National Climate Assessment

The U.S. Global Change Research Program just released the 5th National Climate Assessment, the most comprehensive report on U.S. climate impacts.

Our top takeaways from the NCA5

Climate change is intensifying across the United States, amplifying risks—like 40% of the total U.S. population exposed to the threat of sea level rise—associated with extreme events. These climate-driven events are causing widespread harm, including costly storm damage, heat-related illnesses and fatalities, prolonged droughts, and escalating wildfires that cause damage to homes and air quality.

However, the consequences of climate change are not evenly distributed, exacerbating existing social and economic disparities. Vulnerable communities, especially low-income and communities of color, face heightened risks due to systemic discrimination, exclusion, and disinvestment. Many lack access to critical resources like flood infrastructure, green spaces, and safe housing, amplifying their susceptibility to climate impacts.

As temperatures continue to rise and new risks emerge, the severity of these impacts is projected to worsen. But each metric ton of CO2 reduced is estimated to bring about health benefits in the U.S. valued between $8 to $430 (in 2022 dollars), mainly from avoided premature deaths.

Collective effort at all levels—individuals, organizations, companies, communities, and governments—is crucial to confront escalating climate risks. These efforts can leverage state climate plans, online climate services, technology, data-driven insights, behavioral sciences, and practical experiences to inform adaptation strategies. Accelerating these initiatives and driving transformative shifts in systems and practices are essential steps in mitigating current threats and preparing for future impacts.

Historic funding in climate change programs

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) provides significant funding for climate resilience investments in infrastructure: $550 billion in new spending over five years and $650 billion for existing programs, designed to address extreme weather, flooding, storms, droughts, heat waves, and wildfires. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) also provides investment in reducing carbon pollution through financial incentives to lower the cost of clean energy technologies plus domestic manufacturing of batteries, building decarbonization, and more.

In coordination with the release of NCA5, President Biden announced more than $6 billion to make communities across the country more resilient to the impacts of climate change, including strengthening the electric grid, reducing flood risk to communities, supporting conservation efforts, and advancing environmental justice.

Sector-specific insights and actions

NCA5 serves as a vital resource for informing climate action across various sectors. In the Adaptation chapter, my co-authors and I explore transformative approaches to adequately address current and future risks. However, the sheer volume of information within NCA5’s thousands of pages can be overwhelming. Here are key insights and actions for three sectors that are crucial stakeholders: the federal government, state and local governments, and utility companies.

Federal agencies

Federal agencies can harness the NCA5 data atlas, with its detailed maps, to tailor climate responses to the specific risks and vulnerabilities of different regions. By integrating these insights into policy development and strategic planning, agencies can better align their climate goals with on-the-ground realities. This might include the Department of Energy (DOE) focusing on grid resilience, or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emphasizing pollution reduction in high-risk areas.

NCA5 also includes numerous examples of successful adaptation governance, which highlight the importance of ongoing collaboration. A collaborative approach between public and private organizations, from local to regional to national, can help federal agencies learn from one another. For example, the Santa Clara Pueblo is partnering with multiple federal agencies, the state of New Mexico, and several tribes—all working to build resilience against future floods.

State and local governments (SLG)

SLGs can utilize the NCA5 case studies featuring progress with local adaptation measures, such as living shorelines in the Northeast or solar and green roofs in New York. For instance, the state of Maryland; Virginia Beach, VA; and New York City are each using precipitation and coastal flood elevation estimates to encourage new resilience standards projects.

To adapt equitably, it’s important for SLGs to consider disparities in how and why people are affected by climate change, such as how differing levels of access to resources exacerbates long-term socioeconomic inequality. NCA5 provides frameworks for integrating equity and justice into SLGs climate planning. This includes questions to guide discussions (e.g., Who can afford flood insurance? and Who has access to air conditioning during a heat wave?) and steps to consider when developing equitable climate strategies.

Utility companies

The utility sector stands at the forefront of climate resilience, given its critical role in energy supply and infrastructure. The NCA5's data on climate projections across different geographical locations can guide utilities’ investment in resilient infrastructure and adaptive practices, such as diversifying energy sources.

Examining past examples of funded resilience measures provides a framework for deploying IRA and IIJA resources effectively, which utilities can use to prioritize interventions and investments. Utility companies can also gain valuable insights from case studies in renewable implementation and grid modernization to enhance service reliability and disaster preparedness.

Opportunity for change

NCA5 provides strong evidence for implementing comprehensive climate resilience and adaptation measures. When it comes to climate adaptation, the U.S. can adopt transformational change to keep pace with a warming climate and extreme weather. Adaptation responds to the reality that climate change is affecting every region and sector of the country and puts people and communities in the best position in the face of that change.

NCA5 points out that existing climate impacts have come at a staggering economic cost, with extreme weather events annually burdening the U.S. with close to $150 billion in damages. These costs stem from direct economic losses, including infrastructure damage, labor disruptions, service interruptions, and property devaluation. One final—and perhaps most important—takeaway for federal agencies, state and local governments, and utilities is that evidence shows that investing in adaptation now will reduce the cost of future climate disasters.

Explore insights on how to drive low-emission transitions and build resilience against the effects of climate change.
Go to Climate Center
Meet the author
  1. Adam Parris, Senior Consultant, Climate Planning + ICF Climate Center Senior Fellow

    Adam is an environmental expert with more than 20 years of experience helping people build equitable and just solutions to adapt to climate and societal change. View bio

Sign up to get our latest climate insights