WASHINGTON — Most Americans are already feeling global warming, from heat waves to wild storms to longer allergy seasons. And it is likely to get worse and more expensive, according to the new federal report that is heating up political debate along with the temperature.
Shortly after the report came out Tuesday, President Barack Obama used several television weather forecasters to make his point about the bad weather news and a need for action to curb carbon pollution.
"We want to emphasize to the public, this is not some distant problem of the future. This is a problem that is affecting Americans right now," Obama told Al Roker of NBC's Today show.
The 840-page report said it's not too late to prevent the worst of climate change, which the Obama administration is highlighting as it tries to jump-start often-stalled efforts to curb heat-trapping gases.
The release of the report, the third edition of a congressionally mandated study, gives Obama an opportunity to ground his campaign against climate change in science and numbers. Later this summer, the administration plans to propose new regulations restricting gases that come from existing coal-fired power plants.
Some fossil-energy groups, conservative think tanks and Republican senators immediately assailed the report as "alarmist." Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Obama was likely to "use the platform to renew his call for a national energy tax. And I'm sure he'll get loud cheers from liberal elites — from the kind of people who leave a giant carbon footprint and then lecture everybody else about low-flow toilets."
The report was written by more than 250 scientists and government officials, starting in 2012. A draft was released in January 2013, but this edition has been reviewed by more scientists, including twice by the National Academy of Sciences, which called it "reasonable" and "a valuable resource."
Environmental groups praised the report. "If we don't slam the brakes on the carbon pollution driving climate change, we're dooming ourselves and our children to more intense heat waves, destructive floods and storms and surging sea levels," said Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council.