Today (June 16) the Obama administration will release, at a White House news conference, a report synthesizing the state of scientific knowledge on the likely and potential consequences of global climate disruption for the United States. This is the first climate science report to come out under the Obama administration and the most significant US climate impacts assessment since the first National Assessment issued in 2000. The Bush-Cheney administration essentially suppressed the 2000 National Assessment report and abandoned support for the scientist-stakeholder interaction it had initiated. The event will be Webcast live at http://www.whitehouse.gov/live at 1:30 p.m. EDT.
John Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, and report lead authors Tom Karl of NOAA and Jerry Melillo of the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory, will speak. See White House media advisory.
In addition to the June 16 press conference, the US Global Change Research Program will launch a new website in conjunction with the report: http://www.globalchange.gov/usimpacts.
Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States is a wide-ranging synthesis by a panel of leading experts of climate change impacts across the US, intended to inform decisionmakers at all levels of society. The report is written very accessibly, with copious graphics, and should help to give greater salience to the discussion of US climate change impacts.
The report is also significant in a policy context: How will the President discuss climate change impacts with the American people in view of this report? How should the report influence the views of elected officials and the public on the need for strong climate legislation?
The release of this report by the White House is another good sign that the Obama Administration is moving beyond the misrepresentation of scientific intelligence that we saw during the past eight years. During the Bush-Cheney administration we grew accustomed to climate science reports either being held up at the political level, or misrepresented, or given “stealth” releases designed to limit public attention, and in general ignored and rendered irrelevant to how administration officials discussed the climate change problem.
The report underscores the imperative to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. The more and sooner emissions are curtailed, the greater the chance of limiting harmful impacts that can’t be successfully managed and adapted to. It also shows that the need for strong climate change legislation is about more than clean energy and green jobs. It’s about the costs and consequences of inaction.
The release of this impacts report should kick off an ongoing process of focused scientific research, ongoing national climate change assessment, and communication between scientists and society’s decisionmakers who must plan and prepare for consequences of climate change that may be unavoidable.