* Highlights more extreme weather events as the new normal
* Consequences will be "disruptive to society," report says
By Environment Correspondent Deborah Zabarenko
WASHINGTON, Jan 11 The consequences of climate
change are now hitting the United States on several fronts,
including health, infrastructure, water supply, agriculture and
especially more frequent severe weather, a congressionally
mandated study has concluded.
A draft of the U.S. National Climate Assessment, released on
Friday, said observable change to the climate in the past
half-century "is due primarily to human activities,
predominantly the burning of fossil fuel," and that no areas of
the United States were immune to change.
"Corn producers in Iowa, oyster growers in Washington State,
and maple syrup producers in Vermont have observed changes in
their local climate that are outside of their experience," the
Months after Superstorm Sandy hurtled into the U.S. East
Coast, causing billions of dollars in damage, the report
concluded that severe weather was the new normal.
"Certain types of weather events have become more frequent
and/or intense, including heat waves, heavy downpours, and, in
some regions, floods and droughts," the report said, days after
scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration declared 2012 the hottest year ever in the United
Some environmentalists looked for the report to energize
climate efforts by the White House or Congress, although many
Republican lawmakers are wary of declaring a definitive link
between human activity and evidence of a changing climate.
The U.S. Congress has been mostly silent on climate change
since efforts to pass "cap-and-trade" legislation collapsed in
the Senate in mid-2010.
The 1,146-page draft report is available atA three-month period for public comment will now ensue, as well
as a review by the National Academies of Sciences, before the
final version is produced.
The advisory committee behind the report was established by
the U.S. Department of Commerce to integrate federal research on
environmental change and its implications for society. It made
two earlier assessments, in 2000 and 2009.
Thirteen departments and agencies, from the Agriculture
Department to NASA, are part of the committee, which also
includes academics, businesses, nonprofits and others.
'A WARNING TO ALL OF US'
The report noted that of an increase in average U.S.
temperatures of about 1.5 degrees F (.83 degree C) since 1895,
when reliable national record-keeping began, more than 80
percent had occurred in the past three decades.
With heat-trapping gases already in the atmosphere,
temperatures could rise by a further 2 to 4 degrees F (1.1 to
2.2 degrees C) in most parts of the country over the next few
decades, the report said.
Certain positive consequences of rising temperatures, such
as a longer growing season, were said to be offset by more
disruptive impacts, including:
- threats to human health from increased extreme weather
events, wildfires and air pollution, as well as diseases spread
by insects and through food and water;
- less reliable water supply, and the potential for water
rights to become a hot-button legal issue;
- more vulnerable infrastructure due to sea-level rise,
bigger storm surges, heavy downpours and extreme heat;
- warmer and more acidic oceans.
"This draft report sends a warning to all of us: we must act
in a comprehensive fashion to reduce carbon pollution or expose
our people and communities to continuing devastation from
extreme weather events and their aftermath," Senator Barbara
Boxer, a California Democrat who heads the Senate environment
committee, said in a statement.
Some Democrats hope President Barack Obama will use his
executive powers to clamp down further on some carbon-polluting
industries. Obama has cited climate change as a priority since
being re-elected in November.
Democrats could consider narrow legislation aimed at funding
climate change mitigation, some environmentalists say. That
might include making schools and community centers better able
to withstand the extreme weather that is one expected
consequence of a changing climate.