Posted by: Sara Shipley Hiles | June 17, 2009

Major climate change report released

Federal agencies released a major report today on climate change that has the news agencies and bloggers buzzing. The report, billed as “the most comprehensive, authoritative report on global climate change impacts in the United States,” was reported on by Seth Borenstein at the AP this way:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Rising sea levels, sweltering temperatures, deeper droughts, and heavier downpours — global warming’s serious effects are already here and getting worse, the Obama administration warned on Tuesday in the grimmest, most urgent language on climate change ever to come out of any White House.

But amid the warnings, scientists and government officials seemed to go out of their way to soften the message. It is still not too late to prevent some of the worst consequences, they said, by acting aggressively to reduce world emissions of heat-trapping gases, primarily carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.

The new report differs from a similar draft issued with little fanfare or context by George W. Bush’s administration last year. It is paradoxically more dire about what’s happening and more optimistic about what can be done.

The Obama administration is backing a bill in Congress that would limit heat-trapping pollution from power plants, refineries and factories. A key player on a climate bill in the Senate, California Democrat Barbara Boxer, said the report adds “urgency to the growing momentum in Congress” for passing a law.

The New York Times’s John Broder took a more straightforward approach:

WASHINGTON — The impact of a changing climate is already being felt across the United States, like shifting migration patterns of butterflies in the West and heavier downpours in the Midwest and East, according to a government study to be released on Tuesday.

Even if the nation takes significant steps to slow emissions of heat-trapping gases, the impact of global warming is expected to become more severe in coming years, the report says, affecting farms and forests, coastlines and floodplains, water and energy supplies, transportation and human health.

The study was prepared by the United States Global Change Research Program, a joint scientific venture of 13 federal agencies and the White House. Under a 1990 law, the group is required to report every 10 years on natural and human-caused effects on the environment. The current study, which began in the George W. Bush administration, builds on the findings of the 2000 one.

In The Christian Scientist Monitor’s brightgreenblog, Judy Lowe focused on the personal impacts:

One of the interesting aspects of the administration’s climate change report released today is  its emphasis on how global warming is affecting or is projected to touch every corner of the United States. A few location-specific details were mentioned in the press conference – how trout in the Northwest can’t thrive when air temperatures rise above 70 degrees F., for instance. But an online section offers more localized information: It divides the country into eight areas and lets you click on your region to see possible impacts.

I wonder what the day-after reaction will be?

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