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Climate Change Impacts Being Felt From Coast To Coast, U.S. Government Announces

Groundbreaking Report Details Major Changes in Every Region of the Country; Highlights Urgent Need for Immediate Action, Says WWF

WASHINGTON, DC, June 16, 2009 – Every region of the United States – from the East Coast to the West Coast, plus Alaska and Hawaii – is experiencing significant, adverse impacts from climate change including droughts, floods, heat waves and wildfires – and these widespread impacts will grow during the course of the century, concludes a major new report issued today by the White House.

According to the report Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States, climate change is already having a direct and negative effect on the American people, impacting water, energy, transportation, agriculture, ecosystems, and health all across the nation.

The report was issued by the U.S. Global Change Research Program (GCRP) as the result of research initiated during the Bush Administration.  World Wildlife Fund officials said today that the report accurately reflects the climate-related impacts that its scientists are witnessing in the field, as some of the Earth’s most valuable and threatened ecosystems are pushed to their limits.    

WWF officials said the report provides compelling evidence that the nation is already paying a significant price for failing to take action in the past.

“This is the clearest of wake up calls—climate change is here and the time for action is now,” said WWF President and CEO Carter Roberts. “As Congress debates landmark legislation to solve our energy and climate crisis, this report provides conclusive evidence that our planet is already changing before our very eyes, with enormous implications for our nation’s economic future and way of life.  Already Americans are paying the price for the lack of action on climate change in the past and those costs will only rise.  It’s time for Congress to act. ”

While the report focuses exclusively on U.S. territory, WWF experts say they are observing climate change impacts in other parts of the world that could also pose huge security and economic risks to Americans.  

“While we must take immediate and ambitious action to reduce emissions, we must also respond to the changes already underway and develop measures to prepare for and adapt to climate change impacts,” said Dr. Richard H. Moss, vice president of WWF’s climate change program.

Moss, who served as director of the GCRP office during the Clinton and Bush administrations, urged the federal government to immediately launch a permanent, on-going effort to assess actual and potential climate impacts nationwide, and assess options for preparing for and adapting to those impacts.

“Climate disruption is changing the American landscape in increasingly significant ways. To adequately anticipate, prepare for and respond to those impacts, a coordinated, on-going national assessment effort is required,” Moss said.

Observed changes are detailed in the report, broken down by nine regions: Southeast, Northeast, Midwest, Great Plains, Southwest, Northwest, Alaska, Islands, and Coasts. Key impacts are noted below:

Water
The report finds that nearly every region of the country has experienced water-related impacts in the form of floods and water quality issues, while noting that some areas, namely the Southeast and West, are also suffering from droughts of increasing severity and frequency. Additionally, the report notes declining mountain snowpack, a primary source of freshwater in the West and in Alaska.

Agriculture
Weather extremes, pests, diseases and warmer temperatures pose challenges for agriculture.

Risks to Coastal Areas
U.S. coastal communities face erosion and flooding due to rising sea levels and greater storm surges. The report notes that the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, Hawaii and Alaska are particularly at risk, as is critical transportation and energy infrastructure.

Human Health
Heat, poor air quality, diseases and severe weather events threaten all areas of the country.

Environmental Impacts
Climate change is stressing fragile ecosystems and threatened animal and plant species. According to the report, some ecosystems have already been stressed beyond tipping points. It notes that the increasing loss of ecosystems will impact resource-based services on which human society depends.

NOTES FOR EDITORS

  • WWF will host a telephone press briefing at 3:00pm EDT TODAY during which Carter Roberts and WWF experts will discuss observed climate change impacts in WWF priority regions in the U.S.
    • Access number: 1-800-327-5138
    • Confirmation code: 3344796
    • Title: WWF US Climate Report
  • The report, “Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States,” will be posted online: www.globalchange.gov/usimpacts/.
  • For an interactive map detailing regional impacts and for supplemental information, please visit http://www.worldwildlife.org/climate/maps/index.html.
  • WWF experts are available for interviews:
    • Carter Roberts, WWF president and CEO
    • Dr. Richard H. Moss, WWF vice president for climate change
    • Additional specialists in geographic regions and climate topics