Two CFAES Scientists Contribute to National Climate Assessment

Rattan Lal

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Two scientists in Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences were among the 300 experts who contributed to the recently released National Climate Assessment.

Brent Sohngen, professor of environmental and resource economics in the college’s Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics and director of Ohio State’s Environmental Policy Initiative, co-authored the report’s forestry chapter.

Rattan Lal, Distinguished University Professor of soil science in the School of Environment and Natural Resources and director of Ohio State’s Carbon Management and Sequestration Center, served on the document’s 60-member advisory committee.

Published May 6 by the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), the report concludes that:

  • The world’s climate is indeed changing.
  • Climate change effects are evident across the U.S. based on a wide range of observations, such as extreme weather, which are documented in detail by the report’s authors.
  • The past 50 years of global warming have been caused mainly by human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels.
  • Human-induced climate change will continue and will accelerate significantly if global emissions of heat-trapping gases continue to rise.

The report comes out every four years as mandated by the U.S. Global Change Research Act of 1990.

The report’s latest edition, its third, details the effects of climate change in such areas as agriculture, human health, land and water resources, energy supply and use, and ecosystems and biodiversity.

Brent Sohngen, professor of environmental and resource economics, co-authored the report's forestry chapter. (Photo: Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics.)

Sohngen’s co-authored chapter on forests, for example, finds that climate change is increasing the vulnerability of many U.S. forests through fire, drought, disease outbreaks and insect infestations. The chapter notes that while forests play an important role in absorbing and storing carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, their rate of uptake is expected to decline due to climate change impacts.

The report also analyzes the effects of climate change in the country’s major regions. For example, it says the Midwest will begin seeing longer growing seasons and rising carbon dioxide levels, which will increase the yields of some crop plants. But it warns that these yield benefits will be offset by global warming-fueled extreme weather events.

The report’s authors say that while adaptation options can limit some of climate change’s harmful impacts on agriculture, in the long run, the combined stresses from climate change will reduce the Midwest’s food production.

"Evidence of climate change appears in every region and impacts are visible in every state," says a summary of the report's highlights. The report and its highlights are available online at

Plans for adapting to and mitigating climate change are becoming more widespread, the authors note, but they say current implementation efforts are insufficient to avoid increasingly negative social, environmental and economic consequences.

A wide range of scientists and scholars from government, universities and the private sector prepared the report, which was extensively reviewed by the public and by experts, including from federal agencies and the non-partisan National Academy of Sciences.

The final report was delivered to President Barack Obama and to Congress and will be used by policymakers to formulate national, regional and local policy.

The report can be accessed at

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Nicole Pierron Rasul


Brent Sohngen