The United States has called for urgent action to combat climate change, saying in a report that human-caused warming is already having a serious impact across the country.
The report released on Tuesday is a four-year study by leading scientists warning of the risks of rising sea levels, droughts, fires and pest outbreaks if the world does not tackle the repercussions of greenhouse gas emissions.
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In a televised interview shortly after the report was published, President Barack Obama emphasised the need for action to curb carbon pollution before it is too late.
“We want to emphasise to the public, this is not some distant problem of the future. This is a problem that is affecting Americans right now,” said Obama.
“Whether it means increased flooding, greater vulnerability to drought, more severe wildfires – all these things are having an impact on Americans as we speak.”
The 840-page report, which details how consequences of climate change could play out in several fronts, including infrastructure, water supplies and agriculture, was lauded by some environmental and public health groups as a possible “game changer” in building support for efforts to address climate change, Reuters news agency reported.
However, it was also criticised as “alarmist” by some fossil energy groups, conservative think-tanks and Republican Party senators.
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Thirteen government departments and agencies, from the Agriculture Department to NASA, were part of the committee that compiled the report, which also includes more than 250 scientists, academics, businesses, non-profit organisations and others.
By highlighting issues in each corner of the country, the administration hopes to garner support for federal and state actions, including measures already under way and some that are pending.
Obama has repeatedly vowed to make climate change a priority, promising during his victorious 2008 election campaign to make the US, one of the world’s bigger polluters, a leader in addressing the problem.
But he has failed to persuade Congress to take significant action, with industry-friendly lawmakers staunchly opposed to any restrictions on pollution, AFP news agency reported. Obama instead is moving forward with actions on his own, such as tightening standards for carbon emissions by power plants.
“We’re going to have to do more, and that shouldn’t be a bipartisan issue,” he told CBS news network.
The United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres said that the report could lend a hand to UN efforts to strike a global deal in 2015 on tackling climate change, by issuing an urgent appeal to other countries.
“The essential reality of this report is that no country, powerful or poor, will escape unchecked climate change,” Figueres told Reuters.
Scientists and the White House called the report the most detailed and US-focused scientific report on global warming, Associated Press reported.