The NYT buries White House “exclusive” on the landmark U.S. climate impacts report
The big story featured on the NYT website at 11 am Tuesday ain’t about climate: “With consumers in revolt, it was almost a relief that Tracey Ullman did not shy away from a bit of a roast at American fashion industry’s annual awards night” (see photo below). This is the NYT as People magazine, except today they are focusing on the wrong set of “hot” people. Can you find their “exclusive” climate science story on the front page of nytimes.com? It’s harder than Where’s Waldo? It only made page A13 of the print edition.
The biggest U.S. climate science story in a long time is the US Global Change Research Program releasing its long-awaited analysis of Global Climate Change Impacts in United States.
After all, the Bush administration spent eight years muzzling US climate scientists, stopping them from talking to anybody about U.S. climate impacts, and blocking and burying mandated studies of U.S. impacts (see “The four global warming impact studies Bush tried to bury in his final days“). No surprise, then, that many Americans don’t worry very much about global warming, particularly those who get the news from right wing media (see the deniers are winning, especially with GOP voters or rather o.nly with GOP voters).
Based on media coverage and my conversations with people, I can safely say that it is news to 99.9% of Americans that if we don’t do anything to restrict greenhouse gas emissions we’ll see scorching 9 to 11°F warming over most of inland U.S. by 2090 with Kansas above 90°F some 120 days a year.
The report is embargoed until 1:30 today, but the paper of record was given an exclusive yesterday. Well, you can look very hard to try to find that story on their website. Their piece, “Government Study Warns of Climate Change Effects,” is buried, and the reporter actually managed to find a serious scientist to downplay the report’s importance:
Michael C. MacCracken, a leader of the 2000 study and a principal outside reviewer of the current one, said in an e-mail message that the new report was a useful overview of the state of current climate science in the United States, but “there is not much that is new.”
Mike’s a friend, but that quote is absurd. You could say the exact same thing about the landmark IPCC reports, since they are primarily literature reviews.
Memo to Mike (and NYT reporter John Broder): This is the first comprehensive government report on climate impacts in the United States in nearly a decade. It is the first one that includes our new understanding of sea level rise and likely emissions trajectories absent strong national and international action.
Let’s ignore the NYT article and look at the much better UK Guardian‘s piece:
The Obama administration is poised for its most forceful confrontation with the American public on the sweeping and life-altering consequences of a failure to act on global warming with the release today of a long-awaited scientific report on climate change.
The report, produced by more than 30 scientists at 13 government agencies dealing with climate change, provides the most detailed picture to date of the worst case scenarios of rising sea levels and extreme weather events: floods in lower Manhattan; a quadrupling of heat waves deaths in Chicago; withering on the vineyards of California; the disappearance of wildflowers from the slopes of the Rockies; and the extinction of Alaska’s wild polar bears in the next 75 years….
For many Americans, the report released today, entitled Global climate change impacts in the United States provides the most tangible evidence of the economic costs of climate change – from the need to relocate airports in Alaska built on permafrost, to the increased need for pesticides in agriculture, to an electrical grid straining to meet the increased demand for air conditioning in summer and ageing sewer systems brought to bursting point by heavy run-off in 770 American cities and towns.
Scientists and environmentalists who had seen today’s report praised the breadth of its science as well as its accessible language.
“It’s a clarion call for immediate action,” said Amanda Staudt, a climate scientist at the National Wildlife Federation who has seen advanced drafts of the report but not the version released today. “This report basically describes a state of emergency. It says we need to act quickly and decisively. Every state is going to be affected, and every sector of the economy.”
The final draft of today’s report uses climate models to map out starkly different futures if the current generation of Americans fails to act to reduce the carbon emissions that cause global warming.
If today’s generation acts on climate change, the average US temperature will rise 0.4C-1.83C (4-6.5F) by the end of this century, said the draft, which was finalised in April.
If it does not, average temperatures could rise by about 2.1C-4.3C (7-11F) with catastrophic consequences for human health and the economy.
Americans have already been living with evidence of changing climate, the report said. Over the last 30 years winters have grown shorter and milder, with a 2.1C (7F) rise in winter temperatures in the midwest and northern Great Plains. Hurricanes have become deadlier.
If climate change is left unchecked, the future promises to bring even more ferocious hurricanes to coastal regions – in the Pacific as well as the Atlantic, punishing droughts to the south-west, and increasingly severe winter storms in the north-east and around the Great Lakes.
The human consequences, as envisaged by the draft, are similarily catastrophic: potential food shortages because of declining wheat and corn yields in the breadbasket of the mid-west, increased outbreaks of food poisoning and epidemic diseases.
US cities will be choking because of deteriorating air quality; leisure pursuits will disappear. The report predicts that the ski season in the north-east will be 20% shorter. As for summer holidays, 14 of 17 North Carolina beaches will be permanently underwater by 2080, the draft forecasts….
The release appeared timed to help Democratic leaders in Congress meet an ambitious target of passing a climate change bill th
rough the house of representatives by 26 June. The Democratic speaker, Nancy Pelosi, wants to hold a vote before the house breaks up for the 4 July Independence Day holiday….
The report represents the combined expertise of more than 30 scientists working at 13 government agencies dealing with climate change. Although Congress had mandated annual updates on the science of climate change, the Bush administration failed to produce a comprehensive report on climate change impacts. Today’s document is the first such exercise of this magnitude in eight years.
To the Guardian, kudos. To the New York Times, not so much.
And to the White House, well, next time give your exclusive to somebody who gets its importance…. Have you considered blogs?