In recent months we've had three IPCC reports, with one more due by year's end to complete the UN-sponored panel's fifth and latest assessment of climate change's steadily growing threat. (See post). The American Association for the Advancement of Science put a shorter, punchier version together called "What We Know." and it is similarly urgent ( See post). Now, along comes the National Climate Assessment that NOAA and a stack of other federal agencies put together after three years of meetings and workshops among hundreds of scientists along with representatives of industry and other major players. It is 840 pages long. This is the third one since the Global Change Research Act of 1990 required these analyses to be delivered to the White House every four years or so (the first came out in 2000).
Most readers of The Tracker probably follow such reports well enough to know the gist of what is in this one. Focussed upon US impacts, it delivers a thumping list of things already observable in climate and weather records: Bigger swings and extremes in weather including worse droughts, heavier downpours when it does rain, more floods, and of course higher temperatures even with the slowdown in global heat records over the last dozen years or so. It has sections on regional and socio-economic sector impacts. The report says its bad now and the worsening has hardly begun. Links to the report are in Grist below.
As an aside, a quick look at the new report's list of lead authors reveals at the top of the roster Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University. Watchers of Showtime's global warming documentary series Years of Living Dangerously now running will find the name familiar. At least two segments that I have seen feature her arguing, with varying success but great TV drama, with Christians. They include her preacher husband, who does come around. and the leader of a mega-church in Florida who seems little moved. She is a devout Christian herself, so they do lean in and listen when she says mankind indeed appears to be sending the climate on to a distinctly-our-fault perilous trajectory.
The nation's biggest news agency – specifically a most earnestly productive science writer at the service – does a particularly good job with the new assessment. He wrote three acounts: a curtain raiser, a news summary, and a backgrounder for context. He manages, even though he has written about many such reports, to hitch up his britches and keep on keepin' on. He slyly suggests that the writers of such reports are trying new phrasings to pep things up when he writes "The reports, emphasizing that warming and all-too-wild weather are changing daily lives, used the phrase climate disruption as another way of saying global warming."
- AP – Seth Borenstein: May 5: Final Fed climate report will present dire picture ; May 6 Climate-change report sees wide impact in U.S. ; May 6: National Climate Assessment: Who conducted the study, and how. The last is notable for its political aspect – Borenstein called several old-time energy industry (read Big Carbon) outfits and GOP lawmakers for a reaction. They say the report is not a refletio of science, but of politics. His next paragraph starts off "But scientists who study the issue say that's not correct." Story goes on to list some of the professional societies and the sheer multitude of researchers who pored over the conclusions before signing off on them.
Many other outlets did their duty and gave the report serious coverage. Examples:
- Time Magazine – Bryan Walsh: National Climate Report Is a Study in Extremes ; Walsh calls the report "an incredibly impressive piece of work" with a superb website to make it easily digestible. By comparison, he writes, IPCC reports are "increasingly antiquated." This is essay, not standard news writing. "If the U.S. were as good at stopping climate change as we are at studying it," Walsh says, "we'd have nothing to fear."
- USA Today – Doyle Rice: Report: Climate change is here and getting worse ;
- Washington Post/ Capital Weather Gang blog – Jason Samenow: Does National Climate Assessment lack necessary nuance? ; Samenow opines that for all its strengths and clarity of prose the report "one could argue the report – in a few places – goes too far in attempting to say on-message by glossing over some of the thornier issues in climate science and not sufficiently qualifying projections." He explains what he means well, but one might more easily argue that such nit-picking does not alter the report's solid footing in accepted science.
- Washington Post – Darryl Fears: U.S. climate report says global warming impact already severe ; Starts off with a quote from Katharine Hayhoe, saying pretty much what she said on Showtime's series.
- NY Times – Justin Gillis: U.S. Climate Has Already Changed, Study Finds, Citing Heat and Floods ; Not such a good hed, as everybody even the deniers will say it has changed. If it says "is already changing fast" or something of the sort, better. Gillist highlights how Obama spent most of the report's rollout day: granting interviews to local and national TV and radio weathercasters. He also tells readers that the report's gestation was overseen by a large committee that included two oil company representatives. Has anybody talked with them to see what they think of the result?
- LA Times – Neela Banerjee, Kathleen Hennessey: Climate change assessment pains stark picture of potential damage ; One imagines some of the report's authors will grumble over this hed and the story's lede, both of which imply that climate change remains a hypothesis for the future, not something underway and measurable right now. A bit deeper, story does say a quickening pace of extreme weather is already apparent.
- Nat'l Geographic – Brian Clark Howard: Federal Climate Change Report Highlights Risks for Americans ;
- Guardian (UK) Suzanne Goldenberg: Climate change wreaking havoc in America's backyard, scientists warn ;
- Sci American blogs – David Ropeik: Climate Report Nails Risk Communication ; An analysis of how well the report was handled by its authors and by the White House in publicizing it.
- … could go on quite awhile
On the other hand:
- New Orleans Times-Picayune – James Varney: With National Climate Assessment, it's buyer beware ; Hmmm. This columnist writes that the science of climate change may be solid, but the solutions list is so unproven and unpalatable is still adds up to a liberal (or worse) power grab by collectivist agents, "The global warming zealong will impoverish the planet in order to save it."
- Fox News – Marlo Lewis: National Climate Assessment report: Alarmists offer untrue, unrelenting doom and gloom ; The writer is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. He has a Harvard PhD in government and is a specialist in the moral basis of free enterprise.