The latest update of the National Climate Assessment, a federally-mandated report written by a panel of 240 scientists, was released January 11 and is meant to erase any doubts as to whether climate change is having a real, palpable impact on our daily lives.
"Climate change affects everything that you do," co-author Susan Cutter, director of the Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute at the University of South Carolina, told the AP's Seth Borenstein. "It affects where you live, where you work and where you play and the infrastructure that you need to do all these things. It's more than just the polar bears."
Aside from making everyone rather depressed by the changing climate and the resources that are at stake, the report is meant to push regulators into action. That process is maddeningly slow—arguably slower than the pace at which the climate is changing. When Cutter talks about our climate impacting the places we play and the infrastructure we use, that includes the cars we drive to access the places we love. The Obama administration has made some bold moves in fuel efficiency standards, mandating an average of 54.5 miles per gallon for cars and light trucks. By 2025. That's impressive, but loses some of its shine given our imperative to significantly reduce carbon emissions starting now (or decades ago).
Still, carmakers are reacting to fuel standards that are coming into play now—a 35.5mpg average by 2016. Because it's an average, and because efficiency is easier to obtain in smaller vehicles, the most efficient vehicles have traditionally not been the same cars and trucks people use to play in the mountains. That is starting, ever so slowly, to change.