Obama Administration Issues Pair of Climate Change Reports to Bolster its Regulatory Agenda
By Andy Bowman, Attorney, Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP
Less than a month before the publication of EPA’s controversial greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions guidelines and performance standards for existing power plants, the Obama Administration issued two climate change reports to rally support for its proposed regulation.
The White House released the first report, the 2014 National Climate Assessment, on May 6, 2014. The 2014 Report to Congress is the third National Climate Assessment and had over 300 contributors. The Report declares that climate change is disrupting lives and damaging sectors of the economy in all regions of the country. The Report attributes most of the Earth’s warming over the past 50 years to the build-up of heat-trapping GHG, predominantly from the burning of fossil fuels.
Among the Report’s other findings:
- Human-induced climate change has increased the number and strength of extreme weather events;
- Climate change is projected to continue and will accelerate if global GHG emissions continue to increase; and
- Adverse impacts to health, infrastructure, water quality, water supplies, agriculture, and ecosystems will increase and be more severe.
The Report includes an analysis of impacts and risks faced by different regions of the country. For the Midwest Region, which includes Indiana, some of the impacts identified include:
- A projected average temperature increase of 3.8º F to 4.5º F by mid-century that will result in:
- longer growing seasons and increased yields for some crops such as soy beans that may be offset by extreme weather events;
- a northward shifting of the composition of forests with declines in maples, beeches, birches, spruce, firs and certain pines and an increase in oaks and hickory trees;
- longer pollen seasons;
- increases of diseases carried by insects and rodents; and
- increased energy demand of 10 gigawatts for cooling.
- Continued trend of more intense rainfall events and flooding.
- Increased risks to the Great Lakes caused by less winter ice cover (presumably not including the record ice cover last winter).
In the Southeastern Region, which includes Kentucky, many of the most severe impacts identified are anticipated to be faced by the Region’s coastal areas as the result of projected sea level rises. Other impacts include a projected average temperature increase of 4º F to 8º F with interior states feeling 1º F to 2º F higher temperatures than coastal areas. These higher temperatures are projected to result in the Region experiencing more allergens, increased ground-level ozone, additional vector-borne diseases, more algal blooms, reduced crop productivity, more lightning strikes and higher energy demand for cooling. In addition water supply availability is predicted to decline, particularly in the western portion of the Region. Kentucky will be faced with a projected 5 percent to 2.5 percent decline of water supplies.
The Report’s dire projections are coupled with an ominous warning that current mitigation and adaption responses are “insufficient to avoid increasingly negative social, environmental, and economic consequences.”
The 800-plus page 2014 National Climate Assessment is available at http://nca.2014.globalchange.gov/.
The second report, 2014 Climate Change Indicators in the United States, was issued by EPA on May 28, 2014. This Report is an update of the previous 2010 and 2012 editions and presents 30 indicators which EPA believes are helpful to understand the long-term trends related to the causes and effects of climate change. The Report is divided into six chapters covering GHG, weather and climate, oceans, snow and ice, health and society, and ecosystems. In addition to emissions, temperature, sea level, ice cover and precipitation data, the Report includes such diverse indicators as wildfires, shifts in bird populations, changes in first leaf and bloom dates, changes in heating and cooling days, Lyme Disease reports and heat-related deaths. The 106 page Report and related technical support documents are available at http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/science/indicators/index.html.