The Obama administration's climate report has been called a
game-changer. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
The Obama administration has released an updated report
on how a changing climate has touched every corner of the
country, from oyster growers in Washington State to maple syrup
producers in Vermont, and said that urgent action is needed.
"Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant
future, has moved firmly into the present," it said in an
update to the third National Climate Assessment.
Some environmental and public health groups hailed the report
as a possible "game changer" in building support for efforts
to address climate change, in part because it makes the
outcomes less abstract to many Americans.
Unlike a major United Nations report on climate released
earlier this year, which looked at North America as a whole,
the vast US report outlines in detail the effects on
different geographic regions and segments of the economy.
For example, while residents of the coastal Northeast could
face bigger storm surges and coastal areas around the country
risk more flooding, the southwestern United States is likely
to confront more wildfires and severe water shortages.
"It will help put their own experiences in context, and we
think that is important in generating interest and action on
the issue," said Lyndsay Moseley, director of the American
Lung Association's Healthy Air campaign.
The report, more than 800 pages long, detailed how
consequences of climate change could play out on several
fronts, including infrastructure, water supplies, and
Severe weather and other impacts of climate change also
increase the risk of disease transmission, decrease air
quality and can increase mental health problems, among other
effects, the report said.
That could mean that over time the demand for certain
medications could rise, for example, along with more severe
seasonal allergies. And a changing climate that thrusts US
corn production further northward could alter the
transportation patterns needed to move agricultural products
to market, boosting road and rail construction.
Thirteen government departments and agencies, from the
Agriculture Department to NASA, were part of the committee
that compiled the report, which also includes academics,
businesses, non-profit organizations and others.
By highlighting issues in each corner of the country, the
administration hopes to garner support for federal and state
actions, including measures already under way and some that
"They get that climate change is happening, they get that it
is caused by human activity and support the solutions to
climate change but they don't feel that sense of urgency,"
John Podesta, an adviser to President Barack Obama, told
Podesta said cabinet members will fan out across the country
in coming weeks to discuss the report's findings.
The report includes "a huge amount of practical, usable
knowledge" that state and local decision-makers can use,
Podesta said, adding that it also helps make the clear case
for the need for regulating carbon pollution.
The president's Climate Action Plan, which was unveiled in
June 2013 and focuses on executive actions Obama can use to
rein in polluters, will enter a new phase in June when the
EPA proposes new emissions limits for the country's power
Many Congressional Republicans oppose those plans, and on
Tuesday some accused the administration of favoring politics
over science, at the expense of jobs and the economy.
"Definitive policy decisions and regional planning based on
far too many uncertainties could hurt our nation's economic
viability and competitiveness," said Senator David Vitter, a
Louisiana Republican who is the ranking member of the Senate
United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres said the
report could lend a hand to UN efforts to strike a global
deal in 2015 on tackling climate change, by issuing a clarion
call to other countries.
"The essential reality of this report is that no country,
powerful or poor, will escape unchecked climate change,"
Figueres told Reuters.
The entire report can be viewed at