US Says Global Warming Already Affects How Americans Live

on May 6, 2014 11:33 AM EDT

The effects of global warming come from human activity and are affecting the United States right now, the White House says.
The effects of global warming come from human activity and are affecting the United States right now, the White House says. Photo courtesy of U.S. government.

From California to New York Island, America's climate is changing as global temperatures continue to rise. The White House on Tuesday released its most detailed climate assessment to date, agreeing with the United Nations that the world is warming due to human-driven activity including the burning of greater amounts of fossil fuels.

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"Science, accumulated and reviewed over decades, tells us that our planet is changing in ways that will have profound impacts on all of humankind," President Barack Obama said Tuesday in a statement. He added that "those who are already feeling the effects of climate change don't have time to deny it-they're busy dealing with it."

Katharine Hayhoe, a climate researcher at Texas Tech University, says "climate change is here and now, and not in some distant time or place." She and scores of other prominent American scientists co-authored a massive 1,100-page report describing the effects of global climate change from coast to U.S. coast.

"The choices we're making today will have a significant impact on our future," she said in the report.

Already, rising global temperatures have disrupted the production of corn in Iowa, oysters in Washington, and maple syrup in Vermont - "changes that are outside of recent experience," as the report authors wrote. Likewise, extreme heat and weather patterns across the U.S. in recent years have concerned coastal planners in Florida, water managers throughout the thirsty Southwest, and urban residents from the very hot but dry Phoenix to New York City, which may increasingly become part of the Atlantic ocean.

The White House report blames warming trends observed during the past half-century on increasing emissions of carbon dioxide and methane, which trap heat in the atmosphere and lead to global disruptions in weather humans have come to see as normal. The scientists say most of the emissions come from burning fossil fuels: oil, gas, and coal.

"We're already seeing extreme weather and it's happening now," study co-author Donald Wuebbles, told USA Today, from the University of Illinois. "We're seeing more heat waves, particularly in the West and in the South."

Still, the Obama administration points to some successes as part of U.S. strategy to manage the effects of global warming. Carbon emissions from the U.S. fell in 2012 to the lowest level in two decades, even as the economy continued to grow. “To build on this momentum, the Obama administration will take new and comprehensive action to encourage cleaner forms of American-made energy, modernize the transportation sector, and cut energy waste in our homes and businesses,” the White House’s website on climate control reads.

But it’s exactly this plucky attitude in the fight against global warming that has some conservatives in Washington worried. Republicans in Congress have opposed most of Obama’s climate change initiatives, according to The Daily Caller. Among the latest efforts to protect the fossil fuel energy from regulation, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah has introduced a bill to repeal all clean energy tax subsidies — a threat to greener, renewable energy.

With implications for climate change politics, some analysts give Republicans an 84 percent chance of retaking control of the Senate in upcoming midterm elections. Regardless, White House spokesman John Podesta said this week Obama would use executive orders to ensure progress on managing the effects of global warming, already with us.

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