WASHINGTON (AP) — Most Americans are already feeling man-made global
warming, from heat waves to wild storms to longer allergy seasons. And it
is likely to get worse and more expensive, says a new federal report that
is heating up political debate along with the temperature.
Shortly after the
report came out Tuesday, President Barack Obama used several television
weathermen to make his point about the bad weather news and a need for
action to curb carbon pollution before it is too late.
"We want to
emphasize to the public, this is not some distant problem of the future.
This is a problem that is affecting Americans right now," Obama told
"Today" show weathercaster Al Roker. "Whether it means increased flooding,
greater vulnerability to drought, more severe wildfires — all these things
are having an impact on Americans as we speak."
assorted harms "are expected to become increasingly disruptive across the
nation throughout this century and beyond," the National Climate
Assessment concluded, emphasizing the impact of too-wild weather as well
as simple warming.
Still, it's not
too late to prevent the worst of climate change, says the 840-page report,
which the Obama administration is highlighting as it tries to jump-start
often-stalled efforts to curb heat-trapping gases. Said White House
science adviser John Holdren: "It's a good-news story about the many
opportunities to take cost-effective actions to reduce the damage."
Release of the
report, the third edition of a congressionally mandated study, gives Obama
an opportunity to ground his campaign against climate change in science
and numbers, endeavoring to blunt the arguments of those who question the
idea and human contributions to such changes. Later this summer, the
administration plans to propose new regulations restricting gases that
come from existing coal-fired power plants.
Not everyone is
energy groups, conservative think tanks and Republican senators
immediately assailed the report as "alarmist." Senate Republican leader
Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Obama was likely to "use the platform to
renew his call for a national energy tax. And I'm sure he'll get loud
cheers from liberal elites — from the kind of people who leave a giant
carbon footprint and then lecture everybody else about low-flow toilets."
office, Obama has not proposed a specific tax on fossil fuel emissions. He
has proposed a system that caps emissions and allows companies to trade
carbon pollution credits, but it has failed in Congress.
David Vitter of Louisiana said the report was supposed to be scientific
but "it's more of a political one used to justify government overreach."
And leaders in the fossil fuel industry, which is responsible for a large
amount of the heat-trapping carbon dioxide, said their energy is needed
and America can't afford to cut back.
agree or disagree with the report, the question is: What are you going to
do about it? To us that is a major question," said Charlie Drevna,
president of the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers. He called
the report "overblown."
The report —
which is full of figures, charts and other research-generated graphics —
includes 3,096 footnotes referring to other mostly peer-reviewed research.
It was written by more than 250 scientists and government officials,
starting in 2012. A draft was released in January 2013, but this version
has been reviewed by more scientists, including twice by the National
Academy of Sciences which called it "reasonable," and "a valuable
groups praised the report. "If we don't slam the brakes on the carbon
pollution driving climate change, we're dooming ourselves and our children
to more intense heat waves, destructive floods and storms and surging sea
levels," said Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense
the White House called it the most detailed and U.S.-focused scientific
report on global warming.
The report looks
at regional and state-level effects of global warming, compared with
recent reports from the United Nations that lumped all of North America
will find things that matter to them in this report," said scientist Jerry
Melillo of the Marine Biological Laboratory, who chaired the science
committee that wrote it. "For decades we've been collecting the dots about
climate change; now we're connecting those dots."
In a White House
conference call with reporters, National Climatic Data Center Director Tom
Karl said his two biggest concerns were flooding from sea level rise on
the U.S. coastlines — especially for the low-lying cities of Miami,
Norfolk, Virginia, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire — and drought, heat waves
and prolonged fire seasons in the Southwest.
Even though the
nation's average temperature has risen by between 1.3 and 1.9 degrees
since record keeping began in 1895, it's in the big, wild weather where
the average person feels climate change the most, said co-author Katharine
Hayhoe, a Texas Tech University climate scientist. Extreme weather hits us
in the pocketbooks and can be seen with our own eyes, she said.
The report says
the intensity, frequency and duration of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes
have increased since the early 1980s, but it is still uncertain how much
of that is from man-made warming. Winter storms have increased in
frequency and intensity and have shifted northward since the 1950s, it
says. Also, heavy downpours are increasing — by 71 percent in the
Northeast. Heat waves, such as those in Texas in 2011 and the Midwest in
2012, are projected to intensify nationwide. Droughts in the Southwest are
expected to get stronger. Sea level has risen 8 inches since 1880 and is
projected to rise between 1 foot and 4 feet by 2100.
center chief Karl highlighted the increase in downpours. He said last
week's drenching, when Pensacola, Florida, got up to two feet of rain in
one storm and parts of the East had three inches in one day, is what he's
The report says
"climate change threatens human health and well-being in many ways." Those
include smoke-filled air from wildfires, smoggy air from pollution, and
more diseases from tainted food, water, mosquitoes and ticks. And ragweed
pollen season has lengthened.
may cost $325 billion by the year 2100 in one of the worst-case scenarios,
with $130 billion of that in Florida, the report says. Already the
droughts and heat waves of 2011 and 2012 have added about $10 billion to
farm costs, the report says.
Posted 5.6 2014