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Climate change increases heat waves, floods - U.S. EPA

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Deaths from heat waves, property damage from floods and rising seas from melting glaciers are a few of the things Americans can expect as a result of climate change, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in a report released on Tuesday.

The report, called “Climate Change Indicators in the United States,” examined the impact of global warming on 24 environmental indicators, such as ice cover and ocean temperatures.

It said there was scientific evidence that climate change was making 22 of the 24 indicators worse.

For instance, eight of the top 10 years for extreme one-day floods or heavy snowfalls in the United States have occurred since 1990, the report said.

In addition heat waves have increased steadily since the end of the 1970s. “For society, increases in temperature are likely to increase heat-related illnesses and deaths, especially in urban areas,” said the report, which relied on data from a variety of U.S. and international agencies and sources.

President Barack Obama has pushed the EPA to take steps to fight climate change to pressure lawmakers to support the climate bill. Late last year the EPA declared greenhouse gases a threat to human health and welfare which set the ball rolling for its regulation of the emissions.

The agency is regulating greenhouse gases from automobiles for the first time. By May it is expected to issue a rule that would determine which power plants and factories it will regulate for the emissions.

The agency will also soon undertake an economic analysis of the climate bill, which suffered a blow after Republican Senator Lindsey Graham dropped out of negotiations.

Senator John Kerry, the lead writer of the bill, said on Tuesday he is sending the bill to the EPA. The analysis could take six weeks to complete.

Environmentalists said Tuesday’s report showed the need for a new energy and climate law. Emily Figdor, the director for global warming programs at Environment America, said it “underscores the urgent need for the Senate to pass meaningful legislation to limit pollution and jump-start the move to truly clean energy, like energy efficiency and wind and solar power.”

The report found that the science surrounding some indicators is too young to conclude climate change is making them worse.

For instance, from 2001 to 2009 some 30 to 60 percent of the U.S. land area experienced drought conditions at any one time, it said. But the data have not been collected long enough to determine whether droughts are increasing over time, it added.

Overall, however, the indicators will likely get worse.

“Considering that future warming projected for the 21st century is very likely to be greater than observed warming over the past century, indicators of climate change should only become more clear, numerous and compelling,” the EPA report concluded.

Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Cynthia Osterman