The Environmental Protection Agency released a grim report Friday that said it must start planning for the worst possible effects of climate change, and predicted a future world filled with rising sea levels, raging wildfires and more severe storms.
All of these factors will combine to create droughts, expose humans to dangerous chemicals and create other conditions that will put the human race at risk.
"These changes pose risks for a wide range of human and environmental systems, including public health, the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink, freshwater resources, the coastal environment, wildlife and ecosystems, infrastructure, economic activity, cultural resources and social well-being," the EPA warned.
Skeptics of the theory that mankind's actions are causing the Earth to warm have argued there has been no appreciable increase in global temperatures for more than 10 years. But the EPA's "Climate Change Adaption Plan" took the opposition view, and said all of the worst effects are at least "likely" to happen, while some are "very likely" or even "certain."
"These trends are expected to continue, partly due to past and future emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases from human activities, but will occur against a background of natural variations in climate," the report said. "In the United States, temperatures are projected to warm substantially over the 21st century under all projections of future climate change."
The EPA said air quality will be affected by higher temperatures, more frequent wildfires, heavy precipitation events, more particulate matter exposure and worsened indoor air quality.
Water-related changes will include more hurricanes, rising sea levels, higher ocean temperatures, and less access to drinking water.
These changes, it said, may lead to the release of dangerous chemicals into the environment that are difficult to manage. That, in turn, could lead to even tighter EPA regulations to manage these chemicals.