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Federal report says Warming disrupts Americans' lives


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Federal report says Warming disrupts Americans' lives

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."

Climate change's 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 persuaded.

Some fossil 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."

Since taking 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.

Republican Sen. 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.

"Whether you 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 resource."

Environmental 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 Council.

Scientists and 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 together.

"All Americans 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.

Climate data 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 talking about.

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.

Flooding alone 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.

_http://bigstory.ap.org/article/fed-report-warming-disrupting-americans-lives


Report Uses Phrase ‘Climate Disruption’ As Another Way To Say Global Warming

WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Global warming is rapidly turning America the beautiful into America the stormy, sneezy and dangerous, according to a new federal scientific report. And those shining seas? Rising and costly, the report says.

Climate change’s assorted harms “are expected to become increasingly disruptive across the nation throughout this century and beyond,” the National Climate Assessment concluded Tuesday. The report emphasizes how warming and its all-too-wild weather are changing daily lives, even using the phrase “climate disruption” as another way of saying global warming.

Still, it’s not too late to prevent the worst of climate change, says the 840-page report, which the White House is highlighting as it tries to jump-start often stalled efforts to curb heat-trapping gases.

White House counselor John Podesta said Monday that the climate change report gives “a huge amount of practical, usable knowledge that state and local decision-makers can take advantage of as they plan on or for the impacts of climate change and work to make their communities more resilient.”


However, if the nation and the world don’t change the way they use energy, “we’re still on the pathway to more damage and danger of the type that are described in great detail in the rest of this report,” said study co-author Henry Jacoby, co-director of the Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Jacoby, other scientists and White House officials said this is the most detailed and U.S.-focused scientific report on global warming.

“Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present,” the report says.

“Corn producers in Iowa, oyster growers in Washington state and maple syrup producers in Vermont are all observing climate-related changes that are outside of recent experience.”

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 together. A draft of the report was released in January 2013, but this version has been reviewed by more scientists, the National Academy of Science and 13 government agencies and had public comment. It is written in a bit more simple language so people could realize “that there’s a new source of risk in their lives,” said study lead author Gary Yohe of Wesleyan University in Connecticut.

Even though the nation’s average temperature has risen by as much as 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 like droughts, storms and heat waves hit us in the pocketbooks and can be seen by our own eyes, she said.

And it’s happening a lot more often lately.


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 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.

Since January 2010, 43 of the lower 48 states have set at least one monthly record for heat, such as California having its warmest January on record this year. In the past 51 months, states have set 80 monthly records for heat, 33 records for being too wet, 12 for lack of rain and just three for cold, according to an Associated Press analysis of federal weather records.

“We’re being hit hard,” Hayhoe said, comparing America to a boxer. “We’re holding steady, and we’re getting hit in the jaw. We’re starting to recover from one punch, and another punch comes.”

_http://washington.cbslocal.com/2014/05/06/report-uses-phrase-climate-disruption-as-another-way-to-say-global-warming/



The White House Outlines How Climate Change Is Breaking Our Systems Down

The White House's third major National Climate Assessment is easily its most comprehensive threat analysis yet. But the most disturbing prognostications might not be the warnings of double digit temperature increases and worsening bouts of extreme weather. They're probably the parts that identify exactly how the nation's infrastructure and critical systems are already buckling under the strain of climate change, written by those who understand it best.

As a whole, the 2014 NCA focuses on the immediate and near-term impacts of warmer temps and extreme weather phenomena across the US. The product of years of research from hundreds of scientists and experts, it considers the rising specter of worsening heat waves, drought, floods, and storms. The predictions it outlines are foreboding enough that NBC titled its coverage "American Doomsday."

And that's apt, in a way—though the danger isn't as much that Americans are going to be swallowed in flames or drowned in floods (though there will be some of that). The greater threat, as outlined in the report, is that more frequent and fiercer natural disasters will begin to break down the technologies and implements of modern society, posing dangers not just to a few unfortunate disaster victims, but everyone who has become accustomed to clean water and a steady flow of power.

One section quietly details how disruptions like worsening heat waves and drought are already spurring "cascading events" that impact not just a single region or industry, but that are capable of causing water shortages, serious strains on the electrical grid, and severe damages to lives and livelihoods across the economic and social spectrum. Another highlights the now-omnipresent threat of city-wide "multiple systems failures."

Much of the information doesn't break new ground, and perhaps the biggest news is that the White House is so aggressively shining its spotlight on the issue. Climate change is quite capable of overtaking us, the report explains, time and again. Beyond the report itself and the detailed interactive website, the Obama administration is spreading the word by hosting prominent meteorologists from across the nation in a series of interviews about the impacts. But those impacts it does detail are harrowing, especially if you peer deeper in.

One of the report's "Key Messages" concerns those cascade events. The government seeks to explicates how climate change is ripening conditions for a set of chain reactions that could unravel the complex web of services we consider mandatory to modern life. Power, property, cropland, and water are finite resources, after all, and climate change can strain them all at once.

"The links between and among energy, water, and land sectors mean that they are susceptible to cascading effects from one sector to the next," the NCA notes. Especially in regions like the Southwest, where temps are rising and water is already scarce. The report uses the drought of 2011-12 and Texas as a case study:

In 2011, drought spread across the south-central U.S., causing a series of energy, water, and land impacts that demonstrate the connections among these sectors. Texans, for example, experienced the hottest and driest summer on record. Summer average temperatures were 5.2°F higher than normal, and precipitation was lower than previous records set in 1956. The associated heat wave, with temperatures above 100°F for 40 consecutive days, together with drought, strained the region’s energy and water resources ...

These extreme climate events resulted in cascading effects across energy, water, and land systems. High temperatures caused increased demand for electricity for air conditioning, which corresponded to increased water withdrawal and consumption for electricity generation. Heat, increased evaporation, drier soils, and lack of rain led to higher irrigation demands, which added stress on water resources required for energy production. At the same time, low-flowing and warmer rivers threatened to suspend power plant production in several locations, reducing the options for dealing with the concurrent increase in electricity demand.

You can see the domino effect in action: High temps led Texans to reach for the A/C, which raised power demand, which required more water to be diverted to electrical generation systems, which meant there was less for farmers, wildlife, and, yes, other electrical generation systems.

As such, the decline in crop yields cost farmers $5 billion. The drought killed more trees, and record wildfires torched 4 million acres and 2,763 homes. On top of that, "water shortages threatened more than 3,000 megawatts of generating capacity—enough power to supply more than one million homes." Energy prices spiked to "$3,000 a megawatt hour, which is three times the maximum amount that generators can charge in deregulated electricity markets in the eastern United States."

Water had to be rationed to farmers, trucked out to rural communities, and subjected to restrictions in over 1,000 Texas water systems. The Lone Star State endured, but it wasn't pretty. And if it had run into what the report labels a "crippling systems failure"—an overloaded power plant and ensuing blackout, say—it could well have been worse.

The NCA also runs down a harrowing section on such events, which details primarily the threat of sudden storms or blistering heat waves and blackouts.

Impacts are particularly severe when critical systems simultaneously fail. We have already seen multiple system failures during an extreme weather event in the United States, as when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. Infrastructure and evacuation failures and collapse of critical response services during a storm is one example of multiple system failures. Another example is a loss of electrical power during heat waves or wildfires, which can reduce food and water safety. Air conditioning has helped reduce illness and death due to extreme heat, but if power is lost, everyone is vulnerable. By their nature, such events can exceed our capacity to respond. In succession, these events severely deplete resources needed to respond, from the individual to the national scale, but disproportionately affect the most vulnerable populations.

In the section on urban impacts, the White House again warns that floods and storms could swamp already decaying metropolitan infrastructure, and of debilitating blackouts. It notes that "electricity is essential to multiple systems, and a failure in the electrical grid can affect water treatment, transportation services, and public health. These infrastructure systems—lifelines to millions—will continue to be affected by various climate-related events and processes."

Katrina is a disturbing example of how extreme weather—very likely fueled by climate change—overtook technology and critical infrastructure, and led to collapse. In some ways, permanently. The levees failed, as did evacuation plans; the city flooded. The city still hasn't recovered in full; tens of thousands of residents had to relocate and not all its infrastructure has been repaired.

Taken together, these chapters remind us that climate change is putting the entire civilizational system under strain. There's a vastly complex supply chain that makes modern living possible—from water delivery to energy infrastructure—and climate change is capable of assaulting much of it at once. There's a reason that the most en vogue climate term of the moment is "resiliency." We're at the point where we need to actively anticipate and prepare for these dangers. That's exactly what the White House is trying to do, as grim of a project as it may be.

It's probably been decades—since the nuclear age and the cold war—since the highest office in the land handed down such a dire rundown of an existential threat. If we don't get proactive, the White House is saying, climate change will break down our most important things and overwhelm us.

SOURCE & MEDIA

_http://motherboard.vice.com/read/climate-change-causes-cascading-events-that-cripple-civilization?trk_source=homepage-lede

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