"We're screwed. Right now. And it could get much worse."
That was how 350.org co-founder Jamie Henn responded to Tuesday's release of the federal government's National Climate Assessment, the national scientific community's definitive statement on the current and future impacts of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.
Compiling the efforts of 300 leading climate scientists and experts, the message is "bleak" as the NCA details how human-caused global warming is being felt "here and now" nationwide.
“I just hope that we convince as many people as possible that they live in a dynamic climate, that the old normal is broken and we have no idea what the new normal is going to look like when all of this is done.” —Gary Yohe, report co-author
As a consequence of the nearly two degree Fahrenheit rise which occurred throughout the country over the past century, the report says, Americans are experiencing water scarcity in dry regions, increasing torrential rains in wet ones, increasingly severe heat waves, worsening wildfires, and the death of forests as a result of heat-loving invasive insect species.
And all of this is likely to worsen as average temperatures continue to increase. The authors, who were solicited by the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee, estimate that global warming could exceed 10 degrees Fahrenheit in the United States by the end of this century.
“I just hope that we convince as many people as possible that they live in a dynamic climate, that the old normal is broken and we have no idea what the new normal is going to look like when all of this is done,” said Gary Yohe, an economist at Wesleyan University, who since 2010 has been a leader of the NCA advisory committee.
Following its release, many noted that the report provides an abrupt wake-up call to politicians and the fossil fuel industry, saying that their ongoing denial of mankind's disruptive impact on the planet has significantly hastened many of these dangerous effects.
"As our communities reel from droughts, floods, forest fires, fossil fuel disasters, crop failures and more, it becomes harder for these polluters and those aligned with them to hide just how out of touch from reality they are,” said Trip Van Noppen, president of Earthjustice.
“The divide between the fossil-fuel industry's misguided attempts to place profits above the needs of our families and communities grows as each new scientific report is released," Van Noppen continued. “The National Climate Assessment paints a bleak picture, but it is a picture we have seen clearly for many years, and we have to act on it now.”
Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said that the report is another "loud and clear warning that greenhouse gases are rising faster than ever," warning that our continued "refusal to recognize and deal with the crisis could have catastrophic consequences."
“It is no longer acceptable for a majority in Congress to ignore the overwhelming scientific evidence," Sanders added. "It is no longer acceptable that coal and oil companies spend millions of dollars to defeat efforts to protect the planet."
Recognizing the 'call to arms,' Bill McKibben, noted environmentalist and founder of 350.org, tweeted:
Big federal study finds climate change 'firmly in the present' for U.S.--maybe that's when we should act, too http://t.co/QjT20QFWZE
— Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) May 6, 2014
To mark the official roll-out, President Obama announced a series of executive actions, including introducing the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants and setting new goals for renewable energy sources like wind and solar. The President is also taking the opportunity to promote new initiatives to prepare for the inevitable effects of climate change, such as supporting climate-resilient investments, developing climate-preparedness tools and encouraging smart rebuilding after climate disasters, such as Superstorm Sandy.
However, these efforts have repeatedly faced criticism by leading scientists and environmental groups who say that they are not dramatic enough, in light of the current crisis, and that the continuation of the President's "all-of-the-above" energy policy will only further our dependence on polluting fossil fuels, worsening the problem.
Obama on Tuesday has scheduled interviews with a number of meteorologists from major network stations in an effort to promote the report and stem "the strong current of climate skepticism among weather forecasters," the Guardian reports.
According to a 2012 Pew report, 62% of Americans trust television weather reporters on climate change far more than they do climate scientists. And another survey in 2010 by George Mason University's Center for Climate Change Communications found that only 19% of TV weather forecasters accepted that human activity was the main driver of climate change.