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June 10, 2002
Volume 80, Number 23
CENEAR 80 23 p. 11
ISSN 0009-2347


Bush Administration accepts global warming and its impacts as inevitable

The U.S. has sent a report to the United Nations that seems to please no one. The multiagency U.S. "Climate Action Report 2002" says recent climate changes "are likely due mostly to human activities" and that the average global temperature is likely to rise about 3 ºC (5.4 ºF) by 2100. Such warming "by the end of the 21st century is consistent with assumptions about how clouds and atmospheric relative humidity will react to global warming," the report explains.

Climate change will substantially alter conditions in the U.S. by the end of the century, the report says. Snow-fed water supplies will decline, Rocky Mountain meadows will disappear, there will be more intense heat waves, and the sea level will rise, anywhere from 4 to 35 inches. The central tier of states will experience climate conditions much like those that now occur in the southern tier, and the northern tier will feel like the central tier, the report warns. However, it cautions that "a definitive prediction of potential outcomes is not yet feasible" as a result of the many uncertainties involved.

The report offers no suggestions on how to avert the changes or mitigate the even more extreme changes likely after the end of the century.

Instead, the report suggests human adaptation and more research as appropriate policy responses. "Because of the momentum in the climate system and natural climate variability, adapting to a changing climate is inevitable," the report says.

The report, prepared by six agencies--including EPA, the State Department, and the White House Council on Environmental Quality--was under review from January until mid-April. However, President George W. Bush is not embracing the report. On June 4, he said: "I read the report put out by the bureaucracy." Rather than agree with the Kyoto treaty on global climate change, he said, "I accept the alternative we put out, that we can grow our economy and, at the same time, through technologies, improve our environment."

Eileen Claussen, executive director of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, calls the report "bizarre." "It's a contradiction to say: 'Climate change is a problem and humans are causing it, and we are going to have all these impacts in the U.S. But, by the way, we aren't going to deal with it. It's just business as usual,' " she says.

"A substantial portion of the report is devoted to predicting specific outcomes for different parts of the U.S.," notes Michael Shanahan, spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute. But, he points out, current computer models don't allow "scientists to define with any assurance how any particular part of the country will be affected by climate change."


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