White House calls for urgent climate change action after release of study
By Tangi Quemener , AFP
May 7, 2014, 12:05 am TWN
WASHINGTON--The White House called Tuesday for urgent action to combat climate change, as it released a study on the impact of global warming across the United States and key sectors of the U.S. economy.
The four-year survey warned of serious threats to homes and infrastructure and industry in the face of extreme weather events.
President Barack Obama vowed during his victorious 2008 presidential campaign to make the United States a leader in tackling climate change and the "security threat" it poses.
But he has failed to convince Congress to take significant action during his subsequent years in office.
As part of a new push on the issue this week, Obama was to give televised interviews with various meteorologists Tuesday to discuss the findings of the third U.S. National Climate Assessment.
Hundreds of the nation's best climate scientists and technical experts — from both the private and public sectors — worked on the report, which examines the impact of climate change today and makes forecasts for the next century.
The researchers warned of drought in the state of California, prairie fires in Oklahoma and rising ocean levels on the East Coast, particularly in Florida, most of them caused by humans.
Sea level rise is also eating away at low-lying areas in places like Mississippi.
In the Southeast and Caribbean regions, home to more than 80 million people and some of the nation's fastest-growing metropolitan areas, "sea level rise combines with other climate-related impacts and existing pressures such as land subsidence, causing significant economic and ecological implications."
The report cited a locally sponsored study as saying that coastal areas in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas could face annual losses of US$23 billion by 2030, with about half of those costs related to climate change.
The impact of global warming is unevenly distributed across U.S. territory, with spectacular effects in Alaska, which researchers said warmed twice as fast as the rest of the country.
"Arctic summer sea ice is receding faster than previously projected and is expected to virtually disappear before mid-century," the report said.
"This is altering marine ecosystems and leading to greater ship access, offshore development opportunity and increased community vulnerability to coastal erosion."
It warned that rising permafrost temperatures would cause drier landscapes, more wildfire, changes to wildlife habitat, greater infrastructure maintenance costs and the release of greenhouse gases that increase global warming.