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Global Warming Is Changing American Way Of Life

By Countercurrents.org

14 January, 2013

Global warming is changing America from sea to rising sea and is affecting Americans’ way of life. Scientists issue fresh warning about climate crisis.

An AP report [1] by Seth Borenstein said:

A special panel of 240 scientists convened by the US government issued on Jan 11, 2013 a 1,146-page draft report detailing ways climate change is disrupting the health, homes and other facets of daily American life.

"Climate change and its impacts threaten the well-being of urban residents in all 13 regions of the U.S.," the report said. "Essential local and regional infrastructure systems such as water, energy supply, and transportation will increasingly be compromised by interrelated climate change impacts."

"Several populations - including children, the elderly, the sick, the poor, tribes and other indigenous people - are especially vulnerable to one or more aspects of climate change," the report said.

The report cited 13 airports runways could be inundated by rising sea level. It mentioned that thawing Alaskan ground means 50 percent less time to drill for oil. Up to $6.1 billion in repairs need to be made to Alaskan roads, pipelines, sewer systems, buildings and airports to keep up with global warming.

Sewer systems across America may overflow more, causing damages and fouling lakes and waterways because of climate change, the report said. The sewer overflows into Lake Michigan alone will more than double by the year 2100, the report said.

The scientists warned that these disruptions will increase in the future. The report uses the word "threat" or variations of it 198 times and versions of the word "disrupt" another 120 times.

"Climate change affects everything that you do," said report co-author Susan Cutter, director of the Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute at the University of South Carolina. "It affects where you live, where you work and where you play and the infrastructure that you need to do all these things. It's more than just the polar bears."

White House science adviser John Holdren writes that the report will help leaders, regulators, city planners and even farmers figure out what to do to cope with coming changes.

And climate change is more than hotter temperatures, the report said.

"Human-induced climate change means much more than just hotter weather," the report said, listing rising-seas, downpours, melting glaciers and permafrost, and worsening storms. "These changes and other climatic changes have affected and will continue to affect human health, water supply, agriculture, transportation, energy, and many other aspects of society."

If someone were to list every aspect of life changed or likely to be altered from global warming, it would easily be more than 100, said two of the report's authors.

The report is required every four years by law. The first report was written in 2000. No report was issued while George W. Bush was president. The next one came out in 2009. This report, paid for by the federal government, is still a draft and not officially a government report yet. Officials are seeking public comments for the next three months.

"There is so much that is already happening today," said study co-author Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University. "This is no longer a future issue. It's an issue that is staring us in the face today"

This version of the report is far more blunt and confident in its assessments than previous ones. Hayhoe said: "The bluntness reflects the increasing confidence we have" in the science and day-to-day realities of climate change.

The report emphasized that man-made global warming is doing more than just altering the environment we live in, it's a threat to our bodies, homes, offices, roads, airports, power plants, water systems and farms.

"Climate change threatens human health and well-being in many ways, including impacts from increased extreme weather events, wildfire, decreased air quality, diseases transmitted by insects, food and water, and threats to mental health," the report said.

While warmer weather may help some crops, others will be hurt because of "weeds, diseases, insect pests and other climate change-induced stresses," the report said. It said weeds like kudzu do better with warmer weather and are far more likely to spread north.

Citing the report Robin McKie, science editor, guardian.co.uk, [2] on January 12, 2013 said:

"Corn producers in Iowa, oyster growers in Washington state and maple syrup producers have observed changes in their local climate that are outside of their experience."

Health services, water supplies, farming and transport are already being strained, the assessment adds.

The report in uncompromising language concluded that severe weather disruption is going to be commonplace in coming years. Nor do the authors flinch from naming the culprit.

If the world's greatest economy is already feeling the strain of global warming, and is fearful of its future impact, then other nations face a very worrying future as temperatures continue to rise as more and more greenhouse gases are pumped into the atmosphere.

"The report makes for sobering reading," said Professor Chris Rapley, of University College London. "Most people in the UK and US accept human-induced climate change is happening but respond by focusing attention elsewhere. We dismiss the effects of climate change as 'not here', 'not now', 'not me' and 'not clear'.
"This compelling new assessment by the US experts challenges all four comforting assumptions. The message is clear: now is the time to act!"

Bob Ward, of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, at the London School of Economics, said: "For those outside the US, this report carries a brutal message because it shows that even the world's leading economy cannot simply adapt to the impacts of climate change. The problem clearly needs concerted international action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to avoid the worst potential consequences."

Observers have noted that the 2013 version is far more uncompromising in its language.

Environmental groups are now hoping that the report will revitalize the debate over climate change in the US and stimulate the administration of Barack Obama into taking action over an issue that has been put on the backburner.

Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, guardian.co.uk, reported [3]:

Future generations of Americans can expect to spend 25 days a year sweltering in temperatures above 100F (38C), with climate change on course to turn the country into a hotter, drier, and more disaster-prone place.

The National Climate Assessment, provided the fullest picture to date of the real-time effects of climate change on US life, and the most likely consequences for the future.

The report, which is not due for adoption until 2014, was produced to guide federal, state and city governments in America in making long-term plans.

By the end of the 21st century, climate change is expected to result in increased risk of asthma and other public health emergencies, widespread power blackouts, and mass transit shutdowns, and possibly shortages of food.

"Proactively preparing for climate change can reduce impacts, while also facilitating a more rapid and efficient response to changes as they happen," said Katharine Jacobs, the director of the National Climate Assessment.

The report states clearly that the steps taken by Obama so far to reduce emissions are "not close to sufficient" to prevent the most severe consequences of climate change.

"As climate change and its impacts are becoming more prevalent, Americans face choices," the report said. "Beyond the next few decades, the amount of climate change will still largely be determined by the choices society makes about emissions. Lower emissions mean less future warming and less severe impacts. Higher emissions would mean more warming and more severe impacts."

The report made clear: no place in America had gone untouched by climate change.
Nowhere would be entirely immune from the effects of future climate change.

Some of those changes are already evident: 2012 was by far the hottest year on record, fully a degree hotter than the last such record – an off-the-charts rate of increase.

Those high temperatures were on course to continue for the rest of the century, the draft report said. It noted that average US temperatures had increased by about 1.5F since 1895, with more than 80% of this increase since 1980.

The rise will be even steeper in future, with the next few decades projected for temperatures 2 to 4 degrees warmer in most areas. By 2100, if climate change continues on its present course, the country can expect to see 25 days a year with temperatures above 100F.

Night-time temperatures will also stay high, providing little respite from the heat.

Certain regions are projected to heat up even sooner. West Virginia, Maryland and Delaware can expect a doubling of days hotter than 95 degrees by the 2050s. In Texas and Oklahoma, the draft report doubled the probability of extreme heat events.

Those extreme temperatures would also exact a toll on public health, with worsening air pollution, and on infrastructure increasing the load for ageing power plants.

But nowhere will see changes as extreme as Alaska, the report said.

"The most dramatic evidence is in Alaska, where average temperatures have increased more than twice as fast as the rest of the country," the draft report said. "Of all the climate-related changes in the US, the rapid decline of Arctic sea ice cover in the last decade may be the most striking of all."

Other regions will face different extreme weather scenarios. The north-east, in particular, is at risk of coastal flooding because of sea-level rise and storm surges, as well as river flooding, because of an increase in heavy downpours.
"The north-east has experienced a greater increase in extreme precipitation over the past few decades than any other region in the US," the report said. Between 1958 and 2010, the north-east saw a 74% increase in heavy downpours.

The midwest was projected to enjoy a longer growing season – but also an increased risk of extreme events like last year's drought. By mid-century, the combination of temperature increases and heavy rainfall or drought were expected to pull down yields of major US food crops, the report warned, threatening both American and global food security.

The report is the most ambitious scientific exercise ever undertaken to catalogue the real-time effects of climate change, and predict possible outcomes in the future.

There were still unknowns though, the report conceded, especially about how the loss of sea ice in Greenland and Antarctica will affect future sea-level rise.

"The draft assessment offers a perfect opportunity for President Obama at the outset of his second term," said Lou Leonard, director of the climate change program for the World Wildlife Fund. "When a similar report was released in 2009, the Administration largely swept it under the rug. This time, the President should use it to kick-start a national conversation on climate change. "

However, the White House was exceedingly cautious on the draft release, noting in a blogpost: "The draft NCA is a scientific document—not a policy document—and does not make recommendations regarding actions that might be taken in response to climate change."


[1] “Report says warming is changing US daily life”, Jan 11, 2013, http://news.yahoo.com/report-says-warming-changing-us-daily-life-232742530.html

[2] “US scientists in fresh alert over effects of global warming”, http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jan/12/us-scientists-effects-global-warming

[3] “Climate change set to make America hotter, drier and more disaster-prone”, Jan 11, 2013, http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jan/11/climate-change-america-hotter-drier-disaster




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