(Updates with statements from White House adviser Podesta,
Climate Assessment author Melillo and UN climate chief Figueres)
By Valerie Volcovici
WASHINGTON May 6 The Obama administration on
Tuesday 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 U.S. 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 agriculture.
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 U.S.
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 are
"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 reporters Tuesday.
Podesta said cabinet members will fan out across the
country in coming weeks to discuss the report's findings.
POWER PLANT POLLUTION RULES AWAITED
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 plants.
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
"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 www.globalchange.gov.
(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici, editing by Ros Krasny and Ken
Wills and Alden Bentley)