Climate change is visible and occurring throughout the U.S., but the choices we make now will determine the severity of its impacts in the future, according to a Texas Tech University climate scientist who served as a lead author on a recent report released by the White House. 

Katharine Hayhoe, director of Texas Tech’s Climate Science Center who was recently listed on the 2014 TIME 100 most influential people in the world, was one of 300 authors from private, public and academic sectors to contribute to the Third National Climate Assessment (NCA3). The project is a product of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, a consortium of 13 federal departments and agencies overseen by a 60-member federal advisory committee. 

Experts view the study as the most comprehensive plain-language to date on what climate change means for the United States. It features 30 chapters and two appendices covering topics including eight U.S. regions, forestry, agriculture and human health.

The report confirms that climate change is affecting every region of the country and key sectors of the U.S. economy and society, underscoring the need to combat the threats climate change presents and increase the preparednessand resilienceof American communities.

“Climate change is no longer a future issue,” Hayhoe said. “We are experiencing its impacts today. In the Great Plains, rising temperatures are already increasing demand for water. Future increases in temperature and shifts in precipitation patterns will constrain development, stress our natural resources, and increase competition for water among communities, agriculture, energy production, and ecological needs. For the U.S. as a whole, climate change will affect our lives through its impacts on our health, our water resources, our food, our natural environment and our economy.” 

Hayhoe served as lead author on the Climate Science Chapter, the Climate Science Appendix and the Commonly Asked Questions Appendix. These discuss how climate is changing, why it’s happening and how it affects the United States. She also developed the high-resolution climate projections used in many of the regional and sectoral chapters. 

“This report is intended to start conversations around the country about how we can best adapt to coming changes and what we might do to mitigate the worst of the impacts,” Hayhoe said.

Emily Therese Cloyd, public participation and engagement coordinator for the NCA3 said the report is envisioned as an ongoing process that will continue to deliver new, relevant science and information about climate change science, impacts and responses. 

“The Third National Climate Assessment report is one part of that process,” she said. “The Global Change Information System is an online resource which houses the NCA3 and will be updated with future National Climate Assessment reports and data.” 

In the 2014 TIME 100 issue, guest contributor and Academy Award nominee Don Cheadle wrote of Hayhoe,  “There’s something fascinating about a smart person who defies stereotype. That’s what makes my friend Katharine Hayhoe – a Texas Tech climatologist and an evangelical Christian – so interesting.” 

Cheadle added: “I got to know Katharine as we worked on Showtime’s climate documentary “Years of Living Dangerously.” But we are all getting to know and benefit from her work.”

The Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University is part of the Department of Interior’s (DOI) South-Central Climate Science Center, for which Hayhoe also is a principal investigator. The DOI Climate Science Centers provide natural and cultural resource managers with the tools and information they need to develop and execute management strategies that address the impacts of climate change on a broad range of resources. The centers also provide scientific information, tools and techniques that land, water, wildlife and cultural resource managers can apply to anticipate, monitor, and adapt to climate change impacts.