Cli­mate re­port warns of bleak fu­ture

Con­tra­dict­ing Trump’s claims, fed­eral study finds global warm­ing will hurt en­tire na­tion if U.S. doesn’t act now.

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Tony Bar­boza

Cli­mate change is tak­ing an in­creas­ing toll on the na­tion’s en­vi­ron­ment, health and econ­omy, and the dam­age will in­ten­sify over the cen­tury with­out swift ac­tion to slash green­house gas emis­sions, ac­cord­ing to a ma­jor sci­en­tific re­port re­leased Fri­day by fed­eral agen­cies.

The con­gres­sion­ally man­dated re­port by 13 fed­eral agen­cies, the first of its kind un­der the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, found that cli­mate change is al­ready be­ing felt in com­mu­ni­ties across the United States. It projects wide­spread and grow­ing dev­as­ta­tion as in­creas­ing tem­per­a­tures, ris­ing sea lev­els, wors­en­ing wild­fires, more in­tense storms and other cas­cad­ing ef­fects harm our ecosys­tems, in­fra­struc­ture and so­ci­ety.

The as­sess­ment paints a dire pic­ture of the wors­en­ing ef­fects of global warm­ing as nearly ev­ery cor­ner of the coun­try grows more at risk from ex­treme heat, more dev­as­tat­ing storms, droughts and wild­fires, wan­ing snow­pack and other threats to crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture, air qual­ity, wa­ter sup­plies and vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties. By cen­tury’s end, the re­port projects thou­sands of ad­di­tional deaths an­nu­ally from wors­en­ing heat waves and air pol­lu­tion, as well as de­clin­ing crop yields and the loss of key coral reef and sea ice ecosys­tems.

Some $1 tril­lion in coastal real es­tate is threat­ened by ris­ing sea lev­els, storm surges and high-tide flood­ing ex­ac­er­bated by cli­mate change, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

The re­port also warns of eco­nomic con­se­quences of in­ac­tion. With­out sub­stan­tial global emis­sions re­duc­tions and lo­cal adap­ta­tion mea­sures, the re­port says, “cli­mate change is ex­pected to cause grow­ing losses to

Amer­i­can in­fra­struc­ture and prop­erty and im­pede the rate of eco­nomic growth over this cen­tury.”

If emis­sions con­tinue to climb, eco­nomic losses will be in the hun­dreds of bil­lions an­nu­ally in some sec­tors by the end of the cen­tury — “more than the cur­rent gross do­mes­tic prod­uct (GDP) of many U.S. states,” the re­port says.

The as­sess­ment found cli­mate change al­ready af­fect­ing Cal­i­for­nia and the South­west through ex­treme drought, ris­ing sea lev­els, heat-re­lated deaths and in­creased wild­fire risk. The area burned across the West­ern U.S. from 1984 to 2015 was twice what it would have been if cli­mate change had not oc­curred, ac­cord­ing to analy­ses cited in the re­port.

The re­port also de­tails re­gional-level cli­mate ef­fects across the na­tion in an ef­fort to pro­vide lo­cal of­fi­cials with tools to re­spond and adapt.

The as­sess­ment leaves no doubt that hu­mans are to blame for the chang­ing cli­mate, and that the ex­tent of the harm we will ex­pe­ri­ence de­pends on de­ci­sions we make to­day.

“Earth’s cli­mate is now chang­ing faster than at any point in the his­tory of mod­ern civ­i­liza­tion, pri­mar­ily as a re­sult of hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties,” the re­port says. “But the sever­ity of fu­ture im­pacts will de­pend largely on ac­tions taken to re­duce green­house gas emis­sions and to adapt to the changes that will oc­cur.”

The as­sess­ment’s dire con­clu­sions are at odds with Pres­i­dent Trump’s ef­forts to dis­miss the threat of cli­mate change and his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s push to slash en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions and al­low more planet-warm­ing pol­lu­tion.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has moved to dis­man­tle Obama-era cli­mate reg­u­la­tions and re­place them with fos­sil fuel-friendly poli­cies that al­low more planet-warm­ing emis­sions from power plants, cars and trucks. Trump has with­drawn from the in­ter­na­tional Paris cli­mate agree­ment, while seek­ing to cast doubt on the sci­en­tific con­sen­sus that cli­mate change is ac­cel­er­at­ing and caused by hu­man ac­tiv­ity.

Ear­lier this week Trump mocked cli­mate sci­ence, tweet­ing about cold weather in the North­east and ask­ing, “What­ever hap­pened to Global Warm­ing?”

In a state­ment, White House spokes­woman Lind­say Wal­ters said that “to ad­dress fu­ture risks, the ad­min­is­tra­tion sup­ports a strong econ­omy and ac­cess to af­ford­able, re­li­able en­ergy, which are in­te­gral to ad­vanc­ing tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion and the de­vel­op­ment of re­silient, mod­ern in­fra­struc­ture.”

She also said the cli­mate re­port “is largely based on the most ex­treme sce­nario” and called for fu­ture in­stall­ments to have a “more trans­par­ent and data-driven process that in­cludes fuller in­for­ma­tion on the range of po­ten­tial sce­nar­ios and out­comes” — a claim that one of re­port’s lead au­thors said was “demon­stra­bly false.”

“I can con­firm it con­sid­ers all sce­nar­ios, from those where we go car­bon neg­a­tive be­fore end of cen­tury to those where car­bon emis­sions con­tinue to rise,” Texas Tech Univer­sity cli­mate sci­en­tist Katharine Hay­hoe tweeted.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion did not block the re­lease of the re­port, a prod­uct of more than two years of work by more than 300 of the na­tion’s lead­ing sci­en­tists both in and out­side of govern­ment, and which is one vol­ume of the Na­tional Cli­mate As­sess­ment, which the fed­eral govern­ment is re­quired by law to pro­duce ev­ery four years.

But fed­eral of­fi­cials faced crit­i­cism over its tim­ing, with en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists, Demo­cratic law­mak­ers and sci­en­tists among those ac­cus­ing the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of try­ing to bury the re­port by re­leas­ing it early, on a slow news day the Fri­day af­ter Thanks­giv­ing.

David Easter­ling, di­rec­tor of the Tech­ni­cal Sup­port Unit at the Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Na­tional Cen­ters for En­vi­ron­men­tal In­for­ma­tion, said in a con­fer­ence call with re­porters that “there has been no ex­ter­nal in­ter­fer­ence” in the de­vel­op­ment of the re­port, but he and other fed­eral of­fi­cials pre­sent­ing the re­port would not an­swer ques­tions about whether the White House weighed in on its re­lease date.

“No mat­ter how hard they try, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion can’t bury the ef­fects of cli­mate change in a Black Fri­day news dump — ef­fects their own fed­eral govern­ment sci­en­tists have un­cov­ered,” Sen. Shel­don White­house (D-R.I.) said in a state­ment.

The doc­u­ment’s re­lease was im­por­tant in tack­ling a mis­con­cep­tion by many Amer­i­cans that the chang­ing cli­mate doesn’t harm them per­son­ally, in­stead “show­ing how cli­mate change is al­ready af­fect­ing each one of us, whether we live in Texas or Min­nesota or Hawai’i or Florida,” said Hay­hoe, the Texas Tech cli­mate sci­en­tist.

“This re­port is clear: It’s real. It’s us. It’s here. It’s bad. It’s get­ting worse. But our choices can and do make a dif­fer­ence. So: act now,” Hay­hoe tweeted.

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists said the as­sess­ment pro­vides a moun­tain of ev­i­dence that cli­mate change is not a po­lit­i­cal de­bate but an ex­is­ten­tial threat that war­rants ac­tion to cut planet-warm­ing pol­lu­tion, be­fore it’s too late.

“With the lives and health of mil­lions of Amer­i­cans at risk from wors­ened hur­ri­canes, droughts, wild­fires and air pol­lu­tion, we urge Pres­i­dent Trump and his ad­min­is­tra­tion to heed the dire warn­ings in this re­port and re­duce green­house gas emis­sions from power plants, ve­hi­cles and other sources to save Amer­i­can lives,” said Harold P. Wimmer, na­tional pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can Lung Assn.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.