© Ian Shive/Aurora Pictures
Are there any global warming naysayers left out there? If so, the bipartisan study by the United States Global Change Research Program, a joint scientific venture of 13 federal agencies and the White House, should remove their last doubts.
“Climate change is happening now, it’s happening in our own backyards, and it affects the kinds of things people care about,” said Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), when the White House released the final report this summer.
Across the nation, citizens are seeing, and in many cases feeling, the effects of a changing climate, according to the report: heavier downpours in the East and Midwest, more powerful tropical storms in the South, erosion of ocean coastlines, drought in the Southwest, shifting migration patterns of butterflies in West.
What the scientists remain uncertain about is the speed of climate change and severity of these effects and others into the future. Fires, insect pests and invasive weeds are increasing, already affecting more than 33 million acres of forest habitat, according to the report.
“The tremendous number of examples and data presented in the report about projected and existing climate change impacts reinforces what those of us who have been working on climate change for years have repeatedly warned about: Global climate change threatens the very ecosystems upon which all of us depend for survival,” says Jean Brennan, chief climate change scientist for Defenders of Wildlife. “Hopefully it will serve as a much needed wake-up call to our leadership and Congress to take action now to address both the causes and the effects of climate change on our communities, wildlife and natural places—before it is too late.”
To that end, Defenders praised the U.S. House of Representatives for passing the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 in June. The historic legislation places a mandatory cap on greenhouse gas emissions—the major cause of the increase global temperature—and also addresses the negative impacts that global warming is already having on America’s natural resources.
“This is a critical first step toward making smarter energy choices, strengthening our economy, regaining a position of environmental leadership in the world and addressing the causes and damaging impacts of climate change on our economy, ecosystems and human and wildlife communities,” says Defenders’ President Rodger Schlickeisen. “We look forward to working with the Senate and the Obama administration to further increase the funding necessary to safeguard America’s ecosystems, wildlife and natural resources, and to enact the strongest climate and energy bill possible—as soon as possible.”