Climate Change

Obama Turns to Climate Change in Search of Legacy-Building Exercise


The White House released a report on climate change today, the latest National Climate Assessment (NCA). The report warned that climate change "has moved firmly into the present" and that the evidence it is man-made "continues to strengthen," blaming longer, hotter summers and heavier rains, among other things, on climate change. "Americans are noticing changes all around them," the report claims.

This is the third NCA for the U.S., but the first to be posted online, something the White House called "a key deliverable of the Climate Action Plan launched by President Obama last June."

The assessment reviews "climate change impacts" for every region in the U.S.: the Northeast, for example, is reportedly getting more rain while the South is having water problems. The assessment claims "rising carbon dioxide levels increase yields of some crops" but stops short of listing that as a plus of climate change, insisting those benefits are being offset by "extreme events such as heat waves, droughts, and floods."

Climate change may be the last issue President Obama can use to build on his "legacy." In November, The Hill noted that save for the climate issue almost his entire second-term agenda had crumbled. Obama plans on trying to conscript television meteorologists to help push the climate change message.

In an op-ed declaring that the debate over climate change is over, a CNN anchor relays work done by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication:

The first group, "The Alarmed," is made up [of] 16% of the public. They believe climate change is an urgent problem but have no clear idea of how to fix it.

The second group (27%) is "The Concerned." They believe climate change is a problem but think it's more about polar bears and tiny islands than a problem that directly affects them.

The third group, "The Cautious" (23%), are people on the fence. They haven't made up their minds whether global warming is real or if it's a man-made problem.

The fourth group, "The Disengaged" (5%), doesn't know anything about climate change.

The fifth group, "The Doubtful" (12%), do not think climate change is man-made. They think it's natural and poses no long-term risk.

[Anthony] Leiserowitz [of the Yale Project] says it's the sixth group, "The Dismissives," that is the most problematic, even though it comprises just 15% of the public. "They say it's a hoax, scientists are making up data, it's a U.N. conspiracy (or) Al Gore and his friends want to get rich." Leiserowitz goes on to say, "It's a really loud 15%. … (It's a) pretty well-organized 15%."

Others pushing the idea that the "debate is over" would like to throw people who disagree in jail.

The Cato Institute, meanwhile, warns that the NCA skews toward pessimism and that that has negative consequences on regulations:

The bias in the National Climate Assessment (NCA) towards pessimism (which we have previously detailed here) has implications throughout the federal regulatory process because the NCA is cited (either directly or indirectly) as a primary source for the science of climate change for justifying federal regulation aimed towards mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. Since the NCA gets it wrong, so does everyone else.

A good example of this can be found in how climate change is effecting the human response during heat waves.  The NCA foresees an increasing frequency and magnitude of heat waves leading to growing numbers of heat-related deaths. The leading science suggests just the opposite. Just because those in power say they support the science and that the science supports them doesn't make it so.