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The reality of global warming has arrived in the United States asserts the White House in the National Climate Assessment that was officially approved for release this morning. President Obama plans to highlight "the findings in interviews with television weather forecasters around the country," today, reports Justin Gillis of The New York Times, in Climate Change Study Finds U.S. Is Already Widely Affected. This report asserts global warming has already arrived and has been induced by humans, with water becoming scarcer in dry regions, "torrential rains increasing in wet regions, heat waves becoming more common and more severe, wildfires growing worse, and forests dying under assault from heat-loving insects."

Such sweeping changes have been caused by an average warming of less than 2 degrees Fahrenheit over most land areas of the country in the past century, the scientists found. If greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane continue to escalate at a rapid pace, they said, the warming could conceivably exceed 10 degrees by the end of this century.

Scientists writing the report boldly asserts that “Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present.” Climate change deniers are no longer denying abstract claims about the future, but current day realities! This line may be worth reading twice, Kossacks! One implication of this study may be a growing scientific foundation for upgrading the term "climate deniers" to "reality deniers."  

“Summers are longer and hotter, and extended periods of unusual heat last longer than any living American has ever experienced,” the report continued. “Winters are generally shorter and warmer. Rain comes in heavier downpours. People are seeing changes in the length and severity of seasonal allergies, the plant varieties that thrive in their gardens, and the kinds of birds they see in any particular month in their neighborhoods.” ...

The report, the National Climate Assessment, was prepared by a large scientific panel overseen by the government, and received final approval at a meeting Tuesday morning in Washington. The report was unveiled at the White House, and President Obama planned to spend part of the day highlighting the findings in interviews with television weather forecasters around the country.

President Obama plans to use the report to bolster public support for new regulations to place limits on CO2 emissions. The Republicans are already calling these regulations, Obama's "war on coal," which I support.  

One dramatic finding of the assessment includes the expectation of an increased frequency of torrential rains due to increased evaporation from the ocean's surface. The magnitude of the effect found in this report has surprised even some of the leading experts. For example, in the last 50 years, the fraction of precipitation falling "in very heavy rain events has jumped by 71 percent in the Northeast, by 37 percent in the Midwest and by 27 percent in the South."

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Matthew Deluca, of NBC covers the story with a "slightly" more alarmist title, American Doomsday: White House Warns of Climate Catastrophes.

The third National Climate Assessment, the result of four years of research by hundreds of leading scientists and experts, draws a dire picture of a future in which human activity has contributed directly to massive changes in weather. A 1,300-page draft version of the National Climate Assessment was issued last year, and the final version was approved on Tuesday. ...

The changes could help fuel wildfires across the Southwest, lead to a lengthened growing season in the Midwest, and cause heat waves and coastal flooding in the Northeast, according to the report. Glaciers will shrink in Alaska even as drought leads to “increased competition for scarce water resources for people and ecosystems,” the report warns.

And in scenarios reminiscent of Hurricane Sandy, heavy rain storms stand to slam America's transportation networks, flooding tunnels, washing across rail lines and overwhelming drainage systems for streets and tunnels.

These reports are consistent with recent reports that observed levels of CO2 have remained above 400 ppm recently. We need to take seriously warnings to reduce our global emissions of CO2 emissions. This primarily means reducing the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil.

We are not just talking about "reducing the rate at which we increase the number of coal burning plants" which would admittedly still be a challenging political goal globally,
We are not just talking about not adding any more additional coal and oil burning electric plants, which would be challenging. We are talking about not adding new coal burning plants, and shutting down plants many of the plant we are already using if we are going to stay within the benchmark of not increasing planetary temperatures by the benchmark amounts scientists warn we must stay within over the next 50 to 100 years.  

I favor programs accelerating renewable energy such as solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, and hydro-power, as well as greater emphases on conservation. Proponents of nuclear power argue nuclear energy must play a role as well. I do not wish to get into that argument here because one thing both sides of this debate agree on is burning coal is such a disaster for our atmosphere that it must be dramatically reduced much faster than nearly anyone is even proposing to debate about at this point.

Once we have some specific plans on the table with sufficiently aggressive reduction of coal burning plans I have confidence that if we conduct the analysis of comparative energy solutions with solid "whole-systems, full-life cycle cost-benefit analysis" we have the scientific and mathematical tools to choose the best ways forward.

The bigger challenges we face now are the well funded political and financial interests of extremely powerful coal and oil industries that are being asked to leave well over $10 to $20 trillion, or more, of their current wealth in the ground, untapped for the long-term benefit of mankind.

One recent author, I reviewed ominously compared the size of this "sacrifice" to when  the North demanded that the South give up their slaves prior to the U.S. Civil War. Several readers wrote in to point out that the oil and coal wealth we are asking energy companies for forego for global warming is many more times larger than the value of the slaves were to the southern U.S states. Perhaps, we should not expect this battle to be any less intensely fought out?    

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