Climate Change: Here and Now — What Next?

Destroyed houses and palm trees in Sulyan Village on the coastline of Eastern Samar, the Philippines, on Nov. 20, 2013, after Super Typhoon Haiyan.

Photograph by Julian Abram Wainwright/Bloomberg

Destroyed houses and palm trees in Sulyan Village on the coastline of Eastern Samar, the Philippines, on Nov. 20, 2013, after Super Typhoon Haiyan.

“The assessment is clear.”

– President Barack Obama.

“Not only is climate change a problem in the future,” the president said in an interview aired today by CBS News. “It’s already affecting Americans.”

The climate report ordered by Congress and co-authored by 300 scientists concluded that “global warming is already having an effect in the U.S.” as Mark Drajem and Jim Efstathiou report. “The result is more coastal flooding, heavier Eastern rainstorms and longer, more intense droughts in the West.”

“More people are at risk. More homes are lost,” Obama said in the CBS News “This Morning” interview. “More lives are potentially lost. It’s going to impact people in severe, significant ways that cost money.”

Republican leaders remain skeptical about the findings of the report. Even those acknowledging the problem say the U.S. isn’t alone in the search for solutions.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, facing a competitive reelection fight back home in Kentucky, says the White House’s weather words are playing to the “liberal elites.”

“But the vast majority of Middle Class Kentuckians I represent actually have to worry about things like paying utility bills,” he said yesterday.“And putting food on the table. And finding a job in this terrible economy. They’re less interested in ‘just doing something’ on energy — they want to do the smart thing. What they want are practical solutions to the problems and the stresses they’re dealing with every day…

“And one thing that seems clear is this: even if we were to enact the kind of national energy regulations the president seems to want so badly, it would be unlikely to meaningfully impact global emissions anyway unless other major industrial nations do the same.”

Al Roker, one of the TV weather gurus who joined the White House in the publicity surrounding the climate report yesterday, said on NBC News’ “Today” show that:  “This report has taken years to complete, with input from hundreds of scientists and technical experts. The president’s saying the report’s conclusion is clear. If we want to stop climate change, the time to act is now.”

“Well, I’ll tell you,” Obama said in an interview aired by Today, “we’ve been sounding this urgency for the last five years. If we don’t do more, we’re going to have bigger problems, more risk of economic impact and more risk of extreme weather events that can result in people losing their lives or losing their properties or businesses. And we’ve got to have the public understand this is an issue that is going to impact our kids and our grandkids unless we do something about it.”

“The public knows this is a problem. They’re concerned about it. But they don’t know if they can do anything about it. They think it’s something in the distant future. And politicians generally, you know, up in Congress are not going to get out too far in front of the public. And that’s why the public’s voice has to be heard on this.”

Still the problem of climate change has not become a high public priority, according to polls. Obama was asked on CBS, is there a way to change that?

“By publicizing the fact that there are real costs,” he said, “not out in the distant future, but right now.”

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