Suppressed climate change report turns up heat on US lawmakers
Details of a suppressed US government report on the effects of climate change surfaced last week, just days after the agency that wrote it published another damning report linking carbon emissions to detrimental effects on human health.
California Senator Barbara Boxer, chairing the Senate Environment Committee, was allowed to see a draft report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that had been submitted to the White House in December.
According to Boxer, who was not allowed to reproduce the document in full, the report warned of coastal erosion, increased risk of death from heat waves, threats from increased wildfires and water scarcity. The report also warned of damage to ecosystems from climate change linked to carbon emissions.
The White House had refused to read the draft, which was written as a response to a Supreme Court ruling last year forcing the EPA to consider carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. Then, on 11 July, EPA administrator Stephen Johnson issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) as a response to the Supreme Court decision, effectively postponing government action until the next administration takes office.
"It purports to respond to the Supreme Court decision, but it's unprecedented," said Kassie Siegel, executive director of the Centre for Biological Diversity. "It's a bizarre 600-page diatribe about ideological approaches to regulation."
A week after the ANPR release and a week before Boxer's report on the December draft, the EPA's Office of Research and Development, working as part of the US Climate Change Science Program, released the latest in a series of assessments dictated under the Global Change Research Act. Increases in heat-related deaths over the coming decades are "very likely", according to the report, which also found correlations between human activity and warmer ocean temperatures, leading to hurricanes.
"Communities in risk-prone regions, such as coastal zones, have reason to be concerned about potential increases in severe weather events," the report said. It also predicted the increased spread of food and water-borne diseases as result of changes in climate.
"Climate change is very likely to accentuate the disparities already evident in the American health care system," added the report.
The US Climate Change Science Program is an initiative sponsored by 13 government agencies in the US to integrate federal research on climate change. "Unfortunately, this report is a non-regulatory document," concluded Siegel.
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