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White House Asking for Urgent Action to Counter Climate Change


1.Grim Outlook, Dire Warning
Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture / Flickr

A report released by the White House on Tuesday called on Congress and communities around the country to act quickly to counter the worsening effects of climate change and global warming. Republicans however view the report as an attempt by the White House to justify potentially crippling regulations on several industries that are vital to the American economy.

Grim Outlook, Dire Warning

The 840-page document, titled “National Climate Assessment”, is an updated version of an initial climate change report that was released by the Obama Administration in January 2013. A team of more than 300 climate change experts, under the guidance of a Federal Advisory Committee, prepared the report for the White House. It warns of increasingly erratic weather, flooding, wildfires and drought across the country, caused as the result of climate change.

“Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present,” the report cautioned. “Corn producers in Iowa, oyster growers in Washington State, and maple syrup producers in Vermont are all observing climate-related changes that are outside of recent experience,” the report noted.

“So, too, are coastal planners in Florida, water managers in the arid Southwest, city dwellers from Phoenix to New York, and Native Peoples on tribal lands from Louisiana to Alaska.” While it is unclear how much of the change is the result of human activity, there is growing evidence that “human-induced climate change” is strengthening, the report claimed.

According to the report, average temperatures across the country have increased by as much as 1.9 degrees since 1895, while winter storms, torrential rainfall and heat waves are increasing in intensity and frequency. Sea levels too have risen by as much as 8 inches in the past 130 years and will rise by up to four feet by the end of this century, the report noted.

Broad White House Campaign

The White House has already made clear that it intends to launch a broad campaign this month to publicize the report’s findings and to spur action from local and state governments CNN reported, quoting a Democratic operative John Podesta. The huge amount of practical information contained in the report should go a long way in helping decision makers plan a response, CNN quoted Podesta as saying. Republican’s however appear quite skeptical of the report’s conclusions and fear that it will be used to push the President’s Clean Air Act, a bill they oppose vehemently on several counts.

Republican Concerns

Much of the Republican concern apparently stems from the “one-size-fits-all” strategy recommended by the White House climate change report, Fox News reported Tuesday. GOP lawmakers fear that the Obama Administration’s Clean Air Act will only end up costing the middle class more money in the form of tax dollars, impose costly new regulations on the coal industry and unreasonable greenhouse gas emission standards on other industries.

Fox News pointed to a separate report published by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) and several other Republican lawmakers from western states in response to the White House climate assessment. The Republican report, titled “White House Gets It Wrong, States Get It Right” highlights several clean air and clean water initiatives taken at the local and state level in several western states.

“Regulations imposed by Washington undermine the work that is being done at the state level to manage lands and natural resources, protect air and water, and conserve species,” the Republican report noted.

Others such as Sen. David Vitter (R-La) blasted the climate assessment for being more political than scientific. In a statement Tuesday, Vitter said that while the National Climate Assessment purported to be scientific in nature, in reality it was a political document “to justify more government overreach. “

The White House climate assessment and the Republican response to it comes in the midst of an ongoing tussle between environmentalists and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle over the controversial proposal to build the Keystone oil pipeline from Canada to Texas. The Obama Administration has come under increasing pressure to approve the project, but has so far delayed making a decision on it.

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