The White House has launched a major new campaign to tackle escalating climate risks, with the publication of a new report that warns of dire impacts across the USA unless action is taken to slash carbon emissions.
The much-anticipated National Climate Assessment was released today, detailing the findings of more than 300 experts that show how warming temperatures already affect agriculture, human health and biodiversity across the United States.
The landmark report has been released as a key plank of President Obama's Climate Action Plan, which aims to slash greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector. White House senior adviser John Podesta told reporters yesterday that the Environmental Protection Agency would be proposing long-awaited new emissions rules for power plants in early June.
The report is also designed to tackle right-wing climate scepticism in Congress and the media. Obama has today specifically targeted interviews with a number of weather forecasters, including some who have voiced doubts about the existence of manmade global warming, to make the case that compelling scientific warnings demand action to tackle climate risks.
"Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree there's an overwhelming amount of evidence that exists, that it's real, that it's caused by CO2 pollution and other pollutants that we're putting in our air," said Podesta. "If anything, we're seeing some of the effects predicted by the models coming in more quickly than were predicted in the models that existed even a decade ago. So if you want to try to side with the polluters and argue with the American public that that's not happening, today ... that's going to be a losing argument."
Podesta also suggested that Obama would veto a bipartisan energy efficiency bill this week if it included an amendment proposed by some Republicans that would undermine the EPA's proposed greenhouse gas rule for future power plants.
So what does the new report say?
Temperature: The United States is on average 1.3F to 1.9F hotter since record keeping began in 1895. Most of this increase has occurred since about 1970. The past decade was the nation's warmest on record.
Extreme weather: Heat waves have become more frequent and intense, especially in the west. Droughts in the southwest and heat waves everywhere are projected to become more intense and cold waves less intense across the US.
Severe storms: Winter storms have increased in frequency and intensity since the 1950s, and their tracks have shifted northward over the United States
Coastlines: More than 50 percent of Americans are living near coastlines, which could be increasingly vulnerable to flooding, storms and rising sea levels.
Health: There will be increased risks to human health, from extreme weather events, while disease carriers such as mosquitoes and ticks could become more prevalent. But early interventions and preparedness can protect people from the worst of these health impacts.
Energy: Higher summer temperatures will increase electricity use, causing higher summer peak loads, while warmer winters will decrease energy demands for heating. But the report also details how climate change provides an opportunity to switch to low carbon sources that help to bolster energy security and reduce environmental impacts.
Water: Flood risks will increase, but there also will be more water shortages as a result of reduced surface and groundwater supplies in many areas. However, adaptation measures can boost water resources management.
Agriculture: Adaptation measures can help delay and reduce some of the worst disruptions to farming, such as drought, disease and heavy downpours that have reduced yields. From mid-century onwards, climate change is projected to have more negative impacts on crops and livestock across the country.
Ice melt: The Arctic Ocean is expected to become essentially ice free in summer before mid-century, potentially presenting new territorial challenges.