Green Responses to the National Climate Assessment
This post collects statements from environmental and progressive organizations in response to the Third National Climate Assessment of the U.S. Global Change Research Program.Joint statement from Earthjustice, Environmental Defense Fund, Center for American Progress, Natural Resources Defense Council, League of Conservation Voters, League of Women Voters, National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club:
The National Climate Assessment provides more stark evidence that climate change is happening now and threatening our health, homes, businesses and communities. It must be addressed immediately. The NCA comes only weeks after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report reaffirmed the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is underway and that carbon pollution from human activity is responsible for it. The message from the NCA is blunt. Without action, the damage from climate change on our communities will worsen, including: more asthma attacks and respiratory disease; threats to our food and water supplies as well as our outdoor heritage; and, more violent and deadly storms that shutter businesses and cost billions of dollars in recovery. Next month, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to unveil an ambitious proposal to set the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants — the largest U.S. contributor to climate change. We applaud the administration for its commitment to protecting our communities and our economy through the National Climate Action Plan, and call on other public officials to support the plan and these life-saving safeguards.
Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune:
Today’s landmark report is a wake-up call that we simply cannot afford to sleep through yet again. American families are already paying the costs of the extreme weather and health risks fueled by the climate crisis. Now, the nation’s most comprehensive study of climate threats shows the toll on our health, our communities, and our economy will only skyrocket across the country if we do not act. We applaud the Obama Administration for listening to these alarm bells, and urge them to continue to take critical, common-sense steps, including the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants. We don’t just have an obligation to future generations to take action now—we will seize an enormous opportunity as we do. By leaving dirty fossil fuels in the ground and continuing the transition to clean energy solutions like wind and solar, we can create good American jobs and power homes and businesses nationwide without polluting our air, water, or climate.
National Wildlife Federation senior global warming specialist Patty Glick, co-author of the Pacific Northwest chapter:
What strikes me most about this report is how many changes we’re already experiencing and how quickly they’ve occurred. The first National Climate Assessment back in 2000 was considered a look into the future, but just 14 years later, we’re no longer just talking about forecasts and models. Today we’re reporting on the changes we’re already seeing in our own backyards, and frankly I’m alarmed at the speed. Compared to previous projections, we’re seeing temperatures rising faster, oceans more quickly becoming acidic, fish and wildlife habitat shifting sooner than many species can adapt. That we’re seeing so many changes so rapidly is a call to act now to prevent these changes from overwhelming us in the future. We must confront the underlying cause of climate change by cutting carbon pollution, investing in clean energy and saying no to dirty energy. And we will also need to step-up efforts to prepare for and adapt to the impacts climate change already is having on our communities and wildlife by promoting climate-smart approaches to conservation.
Green For All Executive Director Nikki Silvestri:
The National Climate Assessment finds what we know to be true. Climate change is real and affects neighborhoods all across the United States – especially those hit first and worst, communities of color and low-income Americans. We are already paying more for heat and air conditioning to stay comfortable during record high or low temperatures. Severe droughts and floods in America’s agricultural areas strain food production. People are losing loved ones and homes due to extreme weather. We can’t disregard the environment any longer. We need to expand jobs in clean energy and make sure disadvantaged communities have a shot at them. We need to encourage people to come together to plant gardens and promote sustainable lifestyles. We also need to prepare ourselves to leap forward into a healthier future after a hurricane, blizzard, or flood — not just bounce back to where we were before. The good news is that our leaders are already acting on climate change. We are excited by the potential impacts of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and support the Administration’s efforts to cut emissions from future and existing power plants. We are eager to see the National Climate Assessment move this work forward, so we can build cleaner, stronger communities.
Environment America Executive Director Margie Alt:
We’ve known for decades that global warming threatens our future. This report shows how our families and communities are being harmed today. Today’s report explains the science behind what farmers, first responders, flood insurers, victims of hurricane Sandy and other major storms have seen firsthand: global warming is increasing the frequency of extreme weather events, contributing to sea level rise, and increasing drought, and no region of the country is off the hook. In less than a month, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to propose limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants for the first time. Despite power plants being the largest source of carbon pollution in the county, they have gone for decades without the kinds of limits they have for soot, smog, and other dangerous air pollution. This isn’t the only action we need to solve the climate crisis. But limiting carbon pollution from power plants is a major step that will move us dramatically closer to staving off the worst impacts of climate change.
Fossil-industry backed Center for Climate and Energy Solutions President Eileen Claussen:
The Third National Climate Assessment makes clearer than ever that climate change is taking a toll here and now, and that it poses growing risks to communities across the country. Based on an exhaustive review of the latest scientific evidence, the report brings it home to Americans that we are not immune to threats posed by climate change to our infrastructure, water supplies, agriculture, ecosystems, and health. The impacts vary from region to region – more competition for water in the arid West, more heavy downpours in the Northeast and Midwest, and rising sea levels fueling powerful storm surges along the Gulf Coast. What is clear is that every region faces impacts that could be costly and severe. Motivated in part by the billions in damages caused by recent extreme weather events, many companies are starting to take action to build their climate resilience, as documented in our “Weathering the Storm” report. Companies, communities, and individuals all need to better manage climate risks, both by reducing carbon emissions and by becoming more climate-resilient. Investments in mitigation will give our adaptation efforts a greater chance of success. We agree with the NCA: More must be done across the public and private sectors to reduce
- and to safeguard ourselves against -the rising risks of a warming planet.
Center for American Progress Distinguished Senior Fellow Carol M. Browner (Browner is also on the leadership council of the nuclear-industry group Nuclear Matters):
Once again the scientific community is sounding the alarm, this time with the National Climate Assessment, and reaffirming that carbon pollution is driving climate change, fueling more violent and frequent weather events, and threatening public health. The NCA underscores the urgency to address climate change and the biggest step the Obama administration can take is to set the strongest possible limits next month when they unveil the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants. Tackling climate change will require a comprehensive plan to reduce carbon pollution, improve energy efficiency, and innovate our way to cleaner and safer sources of energy. The EPA and the states must work together to develop solutions that cut carbon pollution and move us toward a cleaner energy future.
American Lung Association Assistant Vice President and Director, Healthy Air Campaign Lyndsay Moseley Alexander:
Today’s Assessment released by the Administration affirms what we’ve long known about the urgent need to address the health effects of climate change. Too often, the health impacts of climate are left out of the conversation. In the new National Climate Assessment, the message is clear: climate change threatens our ability to protect our communities, especially those most vulnerable, against the dangers of air pollution, increased allergens, extreme weather, and wildfire. We must meet the climate challenge now if we want to protect the health of millions of Americans living with asthma and other lung diseases, as well as children, seniors, low income and minority communities. This Assessment comes on the heels of the American Lung Association’s most recent 2014 State of the Air report that found that nearly half of the people in the United States (147.6 million) live in counties with unhealthy levels of either ozone or particle pollution, nearly 16 million more than in the last report. The “State of the Air” report confirms that warmer temperatures increased ozone pollution in large areas across the United States. For example, of the 25 metro areas most polluted by ozone, 22 had worse ozone problems including Los Angeles, Houston, Washington-Baltimore, Las Vegas, Phoenix, New York City, Cincinnati, Chicago, and Philadelphia in large part due to heat waves in 2010 and 2012. Drought and wildfires threaten communities with clouds of dust and smoke that can shorten life. Extreme weather events leave families living in damp homes, inhaling moldy debris and soot as they recover. Longer pollen seasons release allergens that can worsen asthma and other lung diseases. As we see on-going record-setting drought in the West and recent record-breaking rain in the East, we know that these changes already exist. They can get worse. As a nation, we have a very important choice to make. Placing first-ever limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants is a vital step to prevent the worst effects of climate change. We cannot allow politics and pressure from polluters to slow clean-up of carbon pollution. Unless we adopt strong carbon standards, the National Climate Assessment shows that reducing air pollution and protecting our families and our neighbors will become even more challenging.
Natural Resources Defense Council president Frances Beinecke:
Our leading scientists send a stark message: Climate change is already seriously disrupting our lives, hurting our health and damaging our economy,” Beinecke said. “If we don’t slam the brakes on the carbon pollution driving climate change, we’re dooming ourselves and our children to more intense heat waves, destructive floods and storms, and surging sea levels. Fortunately, the Obama Administration is taking action – by setting standards for cleaner more efficient cars and, within weeks, by issuing the first-ever nationwide limits on carbon pollution from our existing power plants. Cleaning up the air is a win-win: It can create thousands of jobs, expand energy efficiency and lower electric bills while improving public health. That’s the climate legacy we can, and must, leave future generations.
Natural Resources Defense Council health and environment program senior scientist Kim Knowlton, co-author of the Human Health Chapter:
This report shows how climate change’s effects are now firmly in the present, posing threats to our health—and that of our children, and their children. Rising temperatures increase the frequency and intensity of dangerous heat waves, worsen illnesses like asthma, contribute to the spread of insects that carry infectious diseases, and fuel more dangerous storms and flooding. We have important opportunities now to limit climate change’s worst effects by cutting carbon emissions. At same time, we can prepare to deal with what’s happening now, and for what’s coming, to protect communities and people.
Union of Concerned Scientists Climate and Energy Program director of government affairs Robert Cowin:
The stakes keep getting higher as emissions increase and as scientists learn more about the risks of climate change. The report clearly outlines the need to make climate resilience a national priority. We’re already feeling the impact of climate change and the costs are formidable. Ideally, we’d have a price on carbon to reduce emissions and help pay for climate resilience measures. In the meantime, Congress can do more to make infrastructure and industry less vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather.
World Resources Institute U.S. Climate Initiative director Kevin Kennedy:
The National Climate Assessment brings to light new and stronger evidence of how climate change is already having widespread impacts across the United States. The report confirms what numerous scientific authorities have been saying: climate change is fundamentally altering our nation’s environment and poses a significant threat to our health and our economy. Thankfully, there are solutions available if leaders act quickly to tackle climate change head on. Further delay will only accelerate climate change and raise the costs of addressing its impacts. Next month, the Obama administration is expected to take a critical step forward by introducing the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants. Power plants produce one-third of U.S. emissions and represent the greatest opportunity for the U.S. to drive down its emissions. This will be a major – though not the only – step along the way to put America on course for a safer, low-carbon future.
World Wildlife Fund vice president for climate change Lou Leonard:
Often we consider climate change tomorrow’s problem, but this report reads like it was ripped from today’s headlines. The assessment paints the clearest picture yet that extreme weather and climate disruption are already here, impacting communities across America, and it’s not pretty. If we want to avoid the dangerous future predicted in this report, we need to start today by doing two things: use the information in the report to prepare our communities for these risks; and change the way our country chooses and uses energy. The Administration’s work to set new standards for old, dirty power plants is a key step toward a renewable energy future and puts our nation on the road to meeting President Obama’s mid-century goal of reducing emissions by 80%. This isn’t a typical climate report. Over the past several years, experts from around the country have contributed to and led its creation: local university professors, experts from state and local agriculture and water resources agencies, and leaders from the private sector. The report was created by America’s best and we need to use it to protect America’s communities and natural wonders. In addition to addressing current and future impacts to our climate and oceans, this is the first national assessment that details response strategies, including the need to avoid the most extreme impacts by rapidly driving down emissions of greenhouse gases. The next steps couldn’t be clearer. We need to use this practical report as a guidebook for preparing local communities for extreme weather and other climate impacts. At the same time, we need to transform the way we produce and use energy, leaving dirty coal, oil and gas behind. There is no time to lose. The longer we wait, the more costs and suffering we will endure.