Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Worthwhile American initiative

Oh look, another dire warning in a government climate change report, you say. Well, yes and not all government reports are created equal. In the Green blog of the New York Times last night, the new draft National Climate Assessment of the U.S. government is noted. Released on Friday, it is now getting some attention in the U.S. It's a major research report and is very hard-hitting on how climate change is affecting the U.S., speaking directly to the average American's experience.
When it is final, this report will be an official document of the United States government. Let it be noted that this aggressive language about climate change comes two months after the end of a presidential campaign in which the subject was barely mentioned, to the frustration of a great many voters. That climate silence occurred partly because the television reporters moderating the presidential debates did not pose a single question on the topic.
For some reason, the government put out this draft without the usual advance notice to journalists that accompanies major federal reports, so I confess I have not yet had time to read all 1,193 pages. But I did spend Monday trolling through big sections of the report.
If it survives in substantially its current form, the document will be a stark warning to the American people about what has already happened and what is coming.
“Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present,” the draft document says. “Americans are noticing changes all around them. “Summers are longer and hotter, and periods of extreme heat last longer than any living American has ever experienced. Winters are generally shorter and warmer. Rain comes in heavier downpours, though in many regions there are longer dry spells in between.”
The report cites stronger scientific evidence—developed since the last report of this type was published in 2009—that human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels, are the primary cause of these changes. It warns that if humanity fails to get a handle on emissions, the changes are likely to accelerate. And it cites numerous ways, from health problems to wildfires to extreme weather events, that climate change threatens human welfare – not in some distant land in some far-off time, but here in the United States, and soon.
This is a draft that was put together by over 200 scientists and as noted, will be an official U.S. government report. In Harper's Canada, the group would likely be shut down and de-funded like the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy who had the chutzpah to put out a report or two on the need for climate change action and how that would actually be good for Canada's economy to the tune of hundreds of thousands of jobs and multiplying our economy by various multiples of good fortune in future decades. Anyway, back to the main point. This report has appeared shortly after the election and just before Obama's inauguration. Augurs well if you want the glass half-full perspective. Things like this also help. The post-Sandy hangover is still with people too. Maybe the authors were emboldened.

Someone with a lot of time on their hands should go through that report (link above to government page and all the chapters) and see about the references to Canada. In the exec summary there's a call for a Great Lakes strategy, for starters.

Other adaptation points raised: our infrastructure's going mushy and the insects-are-a-comin'. Sea levels rising, oceans acidifying. All broken down by region and impacts. We saw a smaller scale analysis like this from the Environment Ministry recently.

Maybe someone might ask Kent and Oliver (in for heart repair, best wishes) for a reaction. It's better than a kick in the pants, as some say.