WASHINGTON -- A new government study of global warming confirms that climate change caused by carbon dioxide is already having a "visible impact" on the United States, and severe problems are on the way -- including longer droughts, more floods and an increase in pests like mosquitoes -- if global warming continues unchecked.
The report by the Global Change Research Project, a consortium of government agencies like the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, also directly links climate change to carbon dioxide generated by humans, and warns that severe environmental problems, from coastal flooding to a rise in diseases threatening the human food chain, will only get worse.
"This new report integrates the most up-to-date scientific findings into a comprehensive picture of the ongoing as well as expected future impacts of heat-trapping pollution on the climate experienced by Americans," said John P. Holdren, Assisstant to the President for Science and Technology and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
"It tells us why remedial action is needed sooner rather than later, as well as showing why that action must include both global emissions reductions to reduce the extent of climate change and local adaptation measures to reduce the damage from the changes that are no longer avoidable."
In light of the report, Representative Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, announced he would hold a series of “impact hearings” on the conclusions the study has reached. The first hearing will be held this Thursday on the impacts of a warming world on America’s agriculture and forests
"This report reinforces the science, renews our dedication to forging a national solution, and relegates the last bastions of climate denial to the dustbin of history,” Markey said in a statement issued yesterday. “We waited for eight years to take any action on global warming, even as the evidence mounted. Our economy, our environment, and our planet can wait no longer."
According to the study, temperatures in the United States have already risen 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1900, and the farming season now starts two weeks earlier. In addition, heavy downpours in the last 50 years have increased 67 percent in the Northeast and 31 percent in the Midwest, triggering record floods.
If climate change is not seriously addressed, according to the report, temperatures worldwide could increase 11 degrees Fahrenheit, with even greater overall increases in the United States, and heat waves will be more prolonged and intense. The higher temperatures will increase the number of pests like mosquitoes, weeds will grow faster, and diseases will threaten livestock and agriculture as well as human health.
At the same time, according to the report, droughts will last longer, competition for resources will increase and the nation's coastal area will be threatened due to rising sea levels and more powerful storm surges during hurricanes and other extremely violent weather. By the year 2100, the report predicts, Cape Canaveral and the Everglades, two Florida landmarks, could be completely submerged.
The answer, according to the report, is twofold: take immediate action to curb production of carbon dioxide and come up with ways to cope with -- or take advantage of -- the changes that will likely occur.
"Both of these are necessary elements of an effective response strategy," said Jerry Melillo of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., who co-chaired the report.
read the full report here: http://www.globalchange.gov/publications/reports/scientific-assessments/us-impacts
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.