Climate change and the battle for hearts and minds in the US

The US administration is hoping to win over some of its citizens who are too suspicious of the United Nations to take their IPCC climate report seriously, by issuing a home grown report instead. It concludes that climate change is both real and mainly the result of human activity.

Public perceptions of climate change are critical this year, as the Waxman-Markey bill moves through Congress, the Copenhagen summit in December looming. At the same time, there are signs that public support for substantial action on climate change has taken a hit as the US recession takes hold.

The report, Global Climate Change Impact in the United States, chronicles the effects climate change will have on the US by industry and by region – just to make sure no-one is missed.

It says the agricultural industry will be affected by heavy downpours and droughts affecting crop yields, poorer forage quality in pastures affecting livestock warmer temperatures reducing growth of some crops, and diminishing the effectiveness of herbicides.

For the energy industry, warmer weather will change demand patterns and lead to higher peaks in demand, increasing the need for high baseload capacity. The summary points out the unpredictability of climate change effects on energy supplies:

Many of the effects of climate change on energy production and use in the United States are not well studied. Some of the effects of climate change, however, have clear implications for energy production and use. For instance, rising temperatures are expected to increase energy requirements for cooling and reduce energy requirements for heating.164,201 Changes in precipitation have the potential to affect prospects for hydropower, positively or negatively.201 Increases in hurricane intensity are likely to cause further disruptions to oil and gas operations in the Gulf, like those experienced in 2005 with Hurricane Katrina and in 2008 with Hurricane Ike.201 Concerns about climate change impacts will almost certainly alter perceptions and valuations of energy technology alternatives. These effects are very likely to be relevant for energy policies, decisions, and institutions in the United States, affecting courses of action and appropriate strategies for risk management.201

And if that doesn’t get them, the healthcare section surely will:

Projected increase in heat-related deaths in Chicago

On regional effects, Grist has a summary of the highlights, from heat stress and water scarcity in the South East to roads and sewer systems damaged by thawing permafrost in Alaska.

As Joe Romm points out, an embeddable Slideshare version of the presentation was even made available, so we’ll attempt to embed it here:

The United Nations for its part came out yesterday with a report warning of megadisasters in some of the world’s biggest cities.

Related links:

Climate change and marketing 101 (FT Energy Source, 21/05/09)
Americans’ energy-saving behaviours: act locally, be depressed globally
(FT Energy Source, 11/02/09)

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