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For Immediate Release, June 16, 2009

Contact: Kassie Siegel, (760) 366-2232, x 302

U.S. Government Report On Climate Change Details Far-reaching Impacts to
United States: Strong Climate Action Needed Now

WASHINGTON, D.C.The U.S. Global Change Research Program today released its much-awaited comprehensive, science-based report on observed and projected climate change impacts in the United States, which will provide an important tool to inform U.S. climate policy decisions. The report, Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States, details far-reaching impacts to ecosystems, human health, water, agriculture, transportation, and infrastructure, and concludes that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels would need to be stabilized to near today’s levels (385 ppm) to avoid dangerous climate change, including “severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts.”

“This report highlights the scientific urgency for deep and rapid reductions in greenhouse pollution,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “The mismatch between this urgency and the federal government’s response is tragic.

“While the Obama administration is much better than the Bush administration at acknowledging the severity of the climate crisis, unfortunately the Obama administration is not moving quickly enough to actually do anything about it,” added Siegel. “Moreover, as this report demonstrates, the climate bill moving through Congress is far too weak to bring about the pollution reductions necessary to avert climate catastrophe.”

Drawing upon the latest science, including updates to the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment, the report highlights the need for immediate, far-reaching mitigation measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions:

  • The amount and rate of future climate change depends on the efficacy of measures implemented today to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • A further 2º F increase in temperature (relative to 1980-1999) would lead to dangerous climate change, including “severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts.”
  • Stabilizing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations near today’s levels (385 ppm) is necessary to “have a good chance (but not a guarantee)” of avoiding temperatures above 2º F and dangerous climate change.
  • The global greenhouse gas emissions trajectory in the 2000s has exceeded that of the most fossil fuel-intensive scenario considered by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change , and could lead to a temperature rise of 11.5º F by the end of the century.

Among the observed impacts to the United States detailed in the report are that average temperatures have risen more than 2º F over the past 50 years, extreme weather events like heat waves and droughts have become more frequent and intense, Atlantic hurricane intensity has increased, sea levels are rising, and glaciers and Arctic sea ice are rapidly declining. The report also provides new information on climate change impacts based on the latest science, including an updated projection of three to four feet of sea-level rise by end of century, and highlights emerging impacts like ocean acidification, which threatens the survival of ocean species from plankton to reef-building corals.

Reports on the impact of climate change on the United States are required by the Global Change Research Act of 1990. The Bush administration refused to issue such reports until compelled to by court order issued in August 2007 in a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity. Since that time, the Global Change Research Program has issued several reports documenting the severe impacts of climate change on the United States.

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