WASHINGTON (CN) – The White House released a chilling “game changer” climate report Tuesday that details the flooding, ocean acidification, and extreme heat that have already been caused by global warming, and that will intensify at an accelerating rate. One of the scientists who attended the release warned, “The world is in for some very serious problems.” See report
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is no longer the only solution, said Jerry Melillo, a biology professor at Brown University, in presenting the report. He said people must also learn to adapt.
The affects of excessive carbon emissions have already been measured, said the authors. More rain is coming in heavy downpours, more water is falling as rain instead of snow, summers are dryer, permafrost is melting, and oceans are now 30 percent more acidic than they were two centuries ago.
Over the last half-century, global temperature has risen by 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit, and sea level has risen by eight inches, said the report.
“Every one of them has been linked to human activities,” Thomas Karl, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s climatic data center.
“This report is a game changer,” Jane Lubchenco, an administrator to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said. “This report says unequivocally that climate change is happening now and it’s happening in our own backyard.”
The study was released as Congress considers legislation that would regulate carbon emissions, although when asked if there were any significance in the timing of the project’s release, Melillo from Brown University replied, “The report is being released now because it’s finished.”
The authors did say that the study is intended to guide local and federal lawmakers.
Karl of the NOAA said that most of the impacts of climate change will be negative because the nation has designed its infrastructure for the environment it has had instead of the environment it will have.
For example, global temperature will rise between two degrees and 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit this century, but the US population is growing fastest in the hottest regions.
People living in these hot regions, where water is already scarce, will have even less water, Melillo explained.
The decrease in snow fall already seen today has resulted in smaller ice packs, which means less water is stored for spring and summer melts.
In fact, rising temperatures and seas may be felt particularly hard in the United States which is “projected to warm more than the globe as a whole,” Melillo said.
The study predicts that sea level will rise by three to four feet over the next century, putting the Florida Keys underwater, in addition to other areas along the coasts.
But the nation’s land along the Atlantic coast and Gulf coast is sinking, exacerbating the consequences along the US coast of a rising sea level.
The report also details the effects of carbon emissions on marine life. Carbon dioxide reacts with water to form acid, which dissolves corals and sea shells.
As more carbon dioxide is pumped into the air, the ocean becomes even more acidic.
Also, with warming temperatures, the habitat for coldwater fish, such as salmon and trout, “is likely to decrease dramatically,” said Melillo.
This is because trout, for example, are found where the average monthly water temperature is below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, he said. And these average temperatures are climbing.
In an interview after the presentation, Robert Corell from the Heinz Center, a non-partisan think-tank, described how many aspects of climate change are “accelerating”.
As the polar ice caps melt, for example, the ice that used to reflect 85 percent of the sun’s rays becomes the water that absorbs 85 percent of the energy, he said in a crowded room of the Executive Office Building next to the White House.
Asked in an interview when climate change will stop its acceleration, Corell replied that it depends on how well emissions are controlled, but he said that global temperatures will not return to where they are today, at least not within any human timeframe.
In his answers, Corell also addressed the certainty of the report, and said that confidence in the scientific data is in the 90th percentile.
In a separate interview, Donald Wuebbles from the University of Illinois addressed the extent of the change that will be forced on human society. “The world is in for some very serious problems,” he said.
Through the jabber of reporters, he gave the example of Cyprus, an island that has had to “bring in shiploads of water every day” because of droughts it has suffered over the last few years.
Asked about the difference between the previous and current administrations on the subject of climate change, Wuebbles preferred to discuss President Barack Obama’s approach, saying, “I know he gets it.”