White House issues global warming report

May 29, 2008 3:57:34 PM PDT
Under a court order and four years late, the White House Thursday produced what it called a science-based "one-stop shop" of specific threats to the United States from man-made global warming. While the report has no new science in it, it pulls together different U.S. studies and localizes international reports into one comprehensive document required by law. The 271-page report is notable because it is something the Bush administration has fought in the past.

Andrew Weaver, a Canadian climate scientist who was not involved in the effort, called it "a litany of bad news in store for the U.S."

And biologist Thomas Lovejoy, one of the scientists who reviewed the report for the federal government, said: "It basically says the America we've known we can no longer count on. It's a pretty dramatic picture of all kinds of change rippling through natural systems across the country. And all of that has implications for people."

White House associate science director Sharon Hays, in a teleconference with reporters, declined to characterize the findings as bad, but said it is an issue the administration takes seriously. She said the report was comprehensive and "communicates what the scientists are telling us."

That includes:

- Increased heat deaths and deaths from climate-worsened smog. In Los Angeles alone yearly heat fatalities could increase by more than 1,000 by 2080, and the Midwest and Northeast are most vulnerable to increased heat deaths.

- Worsening water shortages for agriculture and urban users. From California to New York, lack of water will be an issue.

- A need for billions of dollars in more power plants (one major cause of global warming gases) to cool a hotter country. The report says summer cooling will mean Seattle's energy consumption would increase by 146 percent with the warming that could come by the end of the century.

- More death and damage from wildfires, hurricanes and other natural disasters and extreme weather. In the last three decades, wildfire season in the West has increased by 78 days.

- Increased insect infestations and food- and waterborne microbes and diseases. Insect and pathogen outbreaks to the forests are causing $1.5 billion in annual losses.

"Finally, climate change is very likely to accentuate the disparities already evident in the American health care system," the report said. "Many of the expected health effects are likely to fall disproportionately on the poor, the elderly, the disabled and the uninsured."

The report was required by a 1990 law which says that every four years the government must produce a comprehensive science assessment of global warming. It had not been done since 2000.

Environmental groups got a court order last summer to force the Bush administration to produce the document by the end of this month. Hays said the White House has preferred issuing studies on individual global warming issues, such as an agricultural effects report that was released on Tuesday.

"It's totally begrudging," said Rick Piltz, director of Climate Science Watch at the nonprofit Government Accountability Project, a whistleblowers' organization. "It's important the government go on record honestly acknowledging this stuff."

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On the Net:

The science report:

http://tinyurl.com/4hojv5

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