Climate Change is happening, human activity is the primary cause, and without action consequences will be dire. That's the overarching message of the National Climate Assessment, released on May 7th. The message is far from new, but cause for concern is growing quickly. Evidence of climate change now appears in every region and impacts are visible in every state in the U.S.

The Assessment reiterates messages of past climate reports and expands them with new data. The report answers frequently asked questions and discusses impacts to geographic regions and economic sectors. Entire chapters are devoted to rural communities and indigenous peoples, as well as sectors that are critical to the vitality of small towns; agriculture, water, energy, human health, forests, land use and land cover change.

The most devastating predicted impacts of climate change for rural communities will be intensity, frequency and duration of extreme weather events, intensified droughts and floods, soil erosion and temperature changes that decrease crop and livestock productivity. Drought, pests and wildfires threaten forests, too. It's clear, climate change is compromising rural livelihoods and the vitality of rural communities.

Understanding impacts of climate change is important, but building awareness of appropriate responses is even more critical. The Assessment stresses consequences, but also that adaptation is possible if action is taken soon to reduce carbon emissions. Building awareness and slashing carbon emissions is crucial to future vitality, and that is a job everyone can take part in.

Learn more at: http://nca2014.globalchange.gov/.

Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.

Lauren Kolojejchick-Kotch can be reached at laurenk@cfra.org.