Thursday, December 25, 2014

Nat'l climate change report: 'Already affecting the American people'

A draft science report released earlier today by a federal advisory committee concludes that the impacts of climate change are far-reaching and already having a significant affect on Americans' lives and health.

Nat'l climate change report: 'Already affecting the American people'

Waves wash over a roller coaster from a Seaside Heights, N.J. amusement park that fell in the Atlantic Ocean during superstorm Sandy on Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012. New Jersey got the brunt of the massive storm, which made landfall in the state and killed six people. More than 2 million customers were without power as of Wednesday afternoon, down from a peak of 2.7 million. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Waves wash over a roller coaster from a Seaside Heights, N.J. amusement park that fell in the Atlantic Ocean during superstorm Sandy on Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012. New Jersey got the brunt of the massive storm, which made landfall in the state and killed six people. More than 2 million customers were without power as of Wednesday afternoon, down from a peak of 2.7 million. (AP Photo/Mike Groll) AP

A draft science report released earlier today by a federal advisory committee concludes that the impacts of climate change are far-reaching and already having a significant affect on Americans' lives and health.

"Certain types of weather events have become more frequent and/or intense, including heat waves, heavy downpours, and, in some regions, floods and droughts," the authors write in a 21-page executive summary.

I recommend a thorough reading, with one caveat: The report, called the National Climate Assessment, is more than 1,000 pages. (Dowloader alert: it's also 147 MB, so you may want to dip into it chapter by chapter.) More than 240 authors contributed.

It takes a blunt swipe at dissenters who say climate change isn't happening: "Evidence for climate change abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans. This evidence has been compiled by scientists and engineers from around the world, using satellites, weather balloons, thermometers, buoys, and other observing systems. The sum total of this evidence tells an unambiguous story: the planet is warming."

This new report comes just days after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its 2012 update, showing temperatures in the U.S. were a record high.

The climate assessment is done, and presented to Congress, every four years. It doesn't say what should be done about climate change, however. It is meant to inform that debate.

It says temperatures will continue to increase and sea level will continue to rise. Our infrastructure and agriculture will be affected. "Existing health threats will intensify, and new health threats will emerge," it said.

U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-California), the ranking member of the committee on energy and commerce, called the findings in the report "a three-alarm fire. Climate change is already causing widespread disruption across the nation. We are in deep trouble if we don’t act forcefully this year.”

Daniel Lashof, climate program director of the national environmental group, the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the report "shows that every day we delay action on climate change the costs keep rising for our families, communities, economy and American way of life."

"Fortunately," he continued, "the president has the tools at hand now to make big reductions in carbon emissions from largest source of climate-changing pollution: the nation's existing power plants. And he can do so with lower costs and higher benefits than many would expect.” 

Former EPA administrator Carol Browner, also former director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, likewise said the nation "can start with strict carbon pollution standards for power plants and we must significantly expand investments in community resiliency to protect people and the economy from the gathering storms—and floods, droughts, wildfires, and heat waves.

Comment is being accepted until April 12. 

Sandy Bauers Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
About this blog

GreenSpace is about environmental issues and green living. Bauers also writes a biweekly GreenSpace column about environmental health issues for the Inquirer’s Sunday “Health” section.

Sandy Bauers is the environment reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where she has worked for more than 20 years as a reporter and editor. She lives in northern Chester County with her husband, two cats, a large vegetable garden and a flock of pet chickens.

Reach Sandy at sbauers@phillynews.com.

Sandy Bauers Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
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