Monday, January 14, 2013

New federal report links climate change and human activity, mostly the burning of fossil fuels

Observable changes to the climate in the past half century are due "primarily to human activities, predominantly the burning of fossil fuel," and no part of the U.S. is immune to change, according to a draft of the most recent National Climate Assessment released Friday. "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 report says. It also concludes that extreme weather, like Hurricane Sandy and last summer's drought, is the new normal.

Some environmentalists hope the report will make the Obama administration and Congress more active in curbing climate change, even though many Republicans are hesitant to link it to human activity, Deborah Zabarenko of Reuters reports. Congress has been largely silent on the issue since the failed attempt to pass "cap-and-trade" legislation in 2009 and 2010. Some Democrats hope President Obama will use executive powers to "clamp down further on some carbon-polluting industries," Zabarenko reports.

More than 80 percent of the 1.5-degree Fahrenheit increase in the country's average temperature since 1895 has occurred in the past 30 years, according to the report, which says temperatures could rise by 2 to 4 degrees in most parts of the country over the next few decades because of heat-trapping gases already in the atmosphere. The report noted that positive impacts of climate change, such as longer growing seasons, would be offset by more destructive impacts, including increased extreme weather events, wildfires and air pollution; decreased water supplies; vulnerable infrastructure in case of sea-level rises; and, warmer and more acidic oceans. (Read more)

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