An in-depth scientific report from several federal agencies that paints a dire picture of the coming effects of climate change was released quietly on the day after Thanksgiving. But associations focused on science, medicine, and the environment are speaking up to make sure its findings are heard.
Released on Black Friday with little fanfare, the federal government’s major report on climate change threatened to get lost in the news cycle over a holiday weekend.
But associations didn’t miss the release of Volume II of the Fourth National Climate Assessment, and many have spoken up to highlight its alarming findings about the looming impact of climate change on both the planet and the world economy.
National Wildlife Federation CEO Collin O’Mara, for one, criticized the timing of the report’s release. “It’s an absolute disgrace to bury the truth about climate impacts in a year that saw hundreds of Americans die during devastating climate-fueled megafires, hurricanes, floods, and algal blooms,” he said in a statement.
Others were quick to highlight the key findings of the report, which is produced by congressional mandate every four years as a joint project of 13 federal agencies.
The American Geophysical Union, which will devote multiple sessions of its fall meeting in Washington next month to the new report, noted that it underlines risks that are already apparent.
“It finds that our changing climate will exacerbate existing vulnerabilities, challenging or undermining efforts to protect human health and safety, quality of life, and the rate of economic growth,” AGU CEO Christine McEntee wrote. “Whether you are a farmer in the Southwest who just lost their harvest from a drought, or an Alaskan native whose village is threatened by declining permafrost, the report finds you at risk from climate change.”
Rush Holt, the head of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, saw important lessons for legislators to take from the report.
“Policymakers can no longer afford to dismiss or ignore the overwhelming scientific evidence of climate change,” he said in a statement. “The science on climate is clear, and we must face the facts in order to address the risks.”
Meanwhile, the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health, a coalition of nearly two dozen medical associations, focused on the chronic health risks that the report links to climate change.
“The report reaffirms what our physician members are seeing in all parts of the country,” the consortium said in a statement. “Climate change threatens our health in many ways—from more air pollution that increases the risk of heart and lung disease to deaths, illnesses, and mental health impacts of wildfires and extreme weather events like the recent devastating fires in the West and destructive hurricanes in the Southeast.” The group previously released a report of its own warning of health risks related to climate change.
The report advocated greater and faster adoption of renewable energy sources, which it said would cost less in the long run than more traditional sources such as coal or even nuclear power (the report questioned the long-term viability of nuclear power because it requires large quantities of water). John Rogers of the Union of Concerned Scientists told The Huffington Post that the shifting climate is likely to undercut the potential of nuclear energy, which he said is already “having trouble competing against natural gas and renewable energy.”
Others saw potential positives for their industries. Officials from the American Wind Energy Association noted to MarketWatch that building wind-energy sources is getting cheaper, making it competitive in an era when hidden costs of fossil fuels are likely to rise.