What Will It Take For Senate Republicans To Recognize Climate Change Is Real And Finally Do Something About It?

March 6, 2019

Senate Republicans have a problem: they refuse to do anything about climate change even as it is already impacting their constituents. Instead, Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Mitch McConnell, are planning to waste the American people’s time on a sham political stunt. This is simply the wrong thing to do in the face of a climate crisis. All 47 Senate Democrats support a resolution that declares 1) climate change is real; 2) climate change is caused by human activity; and 3) Congress must act immediately to fix the problem – and we hope Republicans will face up to the reality of climate change.

KENTUCKY

According to the 2018 National Climate Assessment, “Cities across the Southeast are experiencing more and longer summer heat waves. … Sixty-one percent of major Southeast cities are exhibiting some aspects of worsening heat waves, which is a higher percentage than any other region of the country.”

Courier Journal: Army engineers warn of brutal future for Ohio River region from climate change. “Climate change will push the Ohio River and its tributaries into uncharted waters, setting off economic and environmental crises like never before across a 13-state region. That's the conclusion of a new U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report that hits close to home. It found that flooding, drought and power failures could become more frequent in Kentucky and Indiana — and the rest of the Ohio River basin. ‘The changes are happening today,’ said Kathleen D. White, a climate change expert at the Corps headquarters who oversaw development of the study. ‘This isn't something that's just in the future.’” [Courier Journal, 11/30/17]

Courier Journal: Climate change warming Kentucky, Indiana, report says. “Kentucky and Indiana can expect even more heat waves, bigger and badder storms and poorer air and water quality in the decades ahead because of global warming, according to a new nationwide report from scientists to Congress and the president. The latest National Climate Assessment, made public Tuesday, hands down a gloomy forecast, with more 95-plus temperatures for the Southeast region that includes Kentucky, and higher humidity and worse air for Indiana, in the Midwest — even as rising carbon-dioxide levels from fossil fuels boosts crop yields. … The National Climate Assessment estimates that by 2070, the western half of Kentucky, including the Louisville area, will have as many as 29 days annually exceeding 95 degrees, up from a range of zero to 15 days from 1971 to 2000. Maps published in the report show a similar change for Southern Indiana. Hotter temperatures also mean more air-quality problems from ozone across both regions. And despite more downpours, the regions could experience more extended periods of drought. The report acknowledged uncertainty over how climate change would affect overall rainfall in the Southeast, but it anticipated a "reasonable expectation" that there would be less water for cities and farms because more heat will evaporate more water. And it acknowledged that an increase in tornadoes in the region may be because of better reporting — not because of climate change. It concluded that there could be year-to-year and decade-to-decade fluctuations in weather because of natural cycles. But it also said global warming will also likely mean more toxic algae blooms, such as those that have become more common in Indiana in recent years, and were documented in Kentucky for the first time in late 2012 — in Taylorsville Lake. The blue-green algae are actually a cyanobacteria, which produce toxins that can lead to skin or eye irritation, nausea, flulike symptoms and liver damage. [Courier Journal, 5/6/14]

SOUTH DAKOTA

According to the 2018 National Climate Assessment, “Despite a long history of high year-to-year variability, producers are experiencing a changing climate and increasing weather variability and extreme conditions that are outside the ranges they have dealt with in the past. Producers’ daily and annual decision-making depends on market conditions for seeds and products, agronomic constraints, and climate change-related variables. The decision-making process is challenged by a lack of experience with analogous climatic conditions in the past, thus increasing risks for land managers.”

According to the 2018 National Climate Assessment, “Climate-related impacts are already being felt in the region’s terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, as well as the local economies that depend upon them. Climate-driven changes in snowpack, spring snowmelt, and runoff have resulted in more rapid melting of winter snowpack and earlier peak runoff due to rapid springtime warming. These effects have resulted in lower streamflows, especially in late summer. Lower flows, combined with warmer air temperatures, have caused stream temperatures to rise. These conditions are negatively affecting aquatic biodiversity … and ecosystem functions of riparian areas (areas along the banks of rivers and streams … ), with important consequences for local economies that depend upon river-based recreation.”

Rapid City Journal: How climate change will affect South Dakota: more weed growth, 100-degree days. “Even South Dakota, tucked away in America's core, will not be spared from expected changes in the global climate. Over the next century, climate scientists say, states in the Northern Plains will face warmer winters, heavier rainfalls, and, according to some projections, twice as many days over 100 degrees F in the summer than they do now. … Climate change may mean that certain weeds, like leafy spurge and knapweed, will become more common. Hotter temperatures may mean that insects, like spider mites and grasshoppers, will explode in number. And heavy downpours may increase the chance of freak floods — like the one that killed 238 people in the Black Hills in 1972.” [Rapid City Journal, 6/22/14]

WYOMING

According to the 2018 National Climate Assessment, “In the mountainous areas of the region, climate change is impacting snow-dependent ecosystems and economies. In Wyoming and Montana, for example, higher-than-normal winter and fall temperatures and low summer precipitation are enabling severe mountain pine beetle outbreaks in whitebark pine. Whitebark pine is a keystone species of high-elevation ecosystems, providing a critical seed source for more than 20 wildlife species, creating microenvironments that allow other tree species to establish, and influencing snowpack dynamics. Whitebark pine is also an important cultural resource for some tribes in the region.”

Slate: For Wyoming, Climate Change Is Now. “A new research paper has come out showing that snow melt in the northwest region of that state is occurring earlier all the time, exactly as you’d expect with warmer winters and spring. The scientists used satellite data to measure snow extent over time and found that snow is melting 16 ± 10 days earlier in the 2000s compared with 1972–1999. … That has profound consequences; state agriculture depends on that melt water. If the melt is happening earlier that implies there’s less time for snow to accumulate on the mountains there. Less snowpack on mountains west of the Continental Divide means less water for the western states, where there is a monumental drought.” [Slate, 4/13/15]

IOWA

According to the 2018 National Climate Assessment, “Changing climate conditions increasingly cause both cultural and economic impacts within the Midwest, and it is very likely these impacts will worsen in the future. … In the Upper Midwest, the duration of frozen ground conditions suitable for winter harvest has been shortened by 2 to 3 weeks in the past 70 years. The contraction of winter snow cover and frozen ground conditions has increased seasonal restrictions on forest operations in these areas,130 with resulting economic impacts to both forestry industry and woodland landowners through reduced timber values.”

Des Moines Register:  What a difference one degree makes: Iowa is getting hotter, bringing more frequent and intense storms.  “Iowa is likely to see more: The state has gotten warmer over the past 30 years, and scientists expect the years ahead will get even hotter, a shift that's likely to hit cities with more frequent and intense rainstorms, similar to the torrential rains that ravaged parts of the Des Moines metro in late June. All told, about 6,100 Polk County residents reported some flood damage. ‘We are experiencing what the rest of the planet is experiencing. ... Wet areas are getting wetter, and dry areas are getting drier,’ said Jerry Schnoor, a University of Iowa professor in civil and environmental engineering.” [Des Moines Register, 8/9/18]

MISSOURI

According to the 2018 National Climate Assessment, “Changes in climate and other stressors are projected to result in changes in major forest types and changes in forest composition as tree species at the northern limits of their ranges decline and southern species experi­ence increasingly suitable habitat. … Projected shifts in forest composition in the central hardwood region (southern Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio) by the end of the century under a higher scenario … would result in substantial declines in wild­life habitat and reduce economic value of timber in the region by up to $788 billion (in 2015 dollars).”

According to the 2018 National Climate Assessment, “Flooding on major rivers also poses a challenge to Midwest communities. Major river floods differ from flash floods on smaller streams in that they affect a larger area and require longer periods of heavy precipitation to create flood conditions. The Nation’s two largest rivers, the Mississippi and the Missouri, flow through the Midwest. River floods can cause loss of life, as well as significant property damage. River floods have caused the closure of interstate highways in the Midwest and temporary inundation of secondary roads. During floods in May 2017, more than 400 state roads in Missouri were closed due to flooding, including several stretches of Interstate 44. … Climate projections suggest an increased risk of inland flooding under either the lower or higher scenario.”

St. Louis Public Radio:  Climate change to bring Missouri heavier rains, hotter days and major costs.  “A national climate report released last Friday from 13 federal agencies predicts increased flooding and hotter temperatures in Midwestern states like Missouri — and that unless carbon emissions are significantly reduced, changing climate patterns could be costly. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that hotter temperatures could cost the region’s economy $10 billion by 2050 due to premature deaths and lost work hours from heat stress. As storms intensify and become more frequent in the Midwest, the report’s authors expect that the cost of adapting urban stormwater systems to extreme weather could exceed $500 million by the end of the century.” [St. Louis Public Radio, 11/28/18]

INDIANA

According to the 2018 National Climate Assessment, “St-Pierre et al. (2003) provide tables estimating economic losses in dairy, beef, swine, and poultry, resulting in declines from both meat/milk/egg production. The data show a strong gradient across the Midwest (with losses in Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana being twice the losses in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan under the current climate). Temperature and humidity increases projected for the Midwest will increase losses across the entire region.”

According to the 2018 National Climate Assessment, “The rate and magnitude of climate impacts can exceed the abilities of even the most adaptable species and potentially lead to tipping points, which result in abrupt system changes and local extinctions. For example, climate change appears to have contributed to the local extinction of populations of the Federally Endangered Karner blue butterfly in Indiana.”

Indianapolis Star: 'Substantial loss of life': What the climate change report says about Indiana. “A global warming report released by the Trump administration predicts several severe outcomes for Hoosier health and economy. The findings of the National Climate Assessment, a 1,600-page report released on Friday, support several conclusions reached by the Purdue University Climate Change Research Center released earlier this year. Specifically, Hoosiers and other residents across the Midwest can expect increased flooding that will strain infrastructure; warmer, more humid conditions that will increase disease and worsen air quality; and reduced agricultural yields caused by heat, pests and a shifting growing season. Perhaps the most startling revelation from the report: The Midwest region ‘is projected to experience a substantial, yet avoidable, loss of life’ by mid-century.” [Indianapolis Star, 11/27/18]

ARIZONA

According to the 2018 National Climate Assessment, “Damages from extreme weather events demonstrate existing infrastructure vul­nerabilities. Long-term, gradual risks such as sea level rise further exacerbate these vulnerabilities. Current levels of infrastructure investment in the United States are not enough to cover needed repairs and replacement. Infrastructure age and disrepair make failure or interrupted service from extreme weather even more likely. Heavy rainfall during Arizona’s 2014 monsoon season shut down freeways and city streets in Phoenix because key pumping stations failed.”

According to the 2018 National Climate Assessment, “With continued greenhouse gas emissions, higher temperatures would cause more frequent and severe droughts in the South­west. This would also lead to drier future conditions for the region. Higher temperatures sharply increase the risk of megadroughts—dry periods lasting 10 years or more.”

KSWT: Arizona's 19-year drought and climate change. “Between 2006 to 2016, about 1,193 people died from excessive heat in Arizona, this is according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. Arizona is also experiencing a 19-year drought that isn’t improving. Unlike wildfires and monsoon season, the drought may not be immediately visible. Scientists believe climate change is affecting the decreasing water levels at the Colorado River. Ph.D. Professor Of Environmental Sciences at Arizona Western College, Laura Alexander, said, ‘We’re anticipating here in the desert southwest, increasing temperatures, faster evaporation rates, less moisture increasing competition for diminishing water supplies.’” [KSWT, 2/19/19]

IDAHO

According to the 2018 National Climate Assessment, “Over the last few decades, an increase in climate-related extreme events has led to an increase in the number of emergency room visits and hospital admissions. Warmer and drier conditions during summer have contributed to longer fire seasons. Wildfire smoke can be severe, particularly in com­munities in the eastern Northwest. Smoke events during 2004–2009 were associated with a 7.2% increase in respiratory hospital admissions among adults over 65 in the western United States. In Boise, Idaho, 7 of the last 10 years have included smoke levels considered ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups’ (including children) for at least a week during the fire season, causing some cancellation of school-related sports activities.”

According to the 2018 National Climate Assessment, “The warming trend is projected to be accentuated in certain mountain areas in late winter and spring, further exacerbating snowpack loss and increasing the risk for insect infestations and wildfires. In central Idaho and eastern Oregon and Washington, vast mountain areas have already been transformed by mountain pine beetle infestations, wildfires, or both.”

Idaho Statesman: The 2019 forecast for climate-change effects on Idaho is ‘not looking good.’ “More fires. More smoky air. More of what made August in the Treasure Valley so unpleasant. That’s what 2019 could bring to Idaho, thanks in large part to the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere, a University of Idaho scientist says. … ‘One thing we need to make very clear is climate impacts do occur in our region,’ he said. Those impacts occur in the form of warmer water, worsening snowpacks, rising temperatures and more intense wildfires, he said.” [Idaho Statesman, 10/11/18]

KANSAS

According to the 2018 National Climate Assessment, “Increased aridity (or dryness) is also projected for the Southern Great Plains with climate change, due to enhanced evapotranspiration and depleted soil moisture associated with increased temperatures. … Periods of abundant precipitation followed by drought and high temperatures are also linked to increased wildfire activity in the region. Texas experienced several major wildfire outbreaks during the drought of 2011, including the Bastrop Fire that destroyed more than 1,500 homes. More recently in 2016 and 2017, fires in Kansas and Oklahoma have exceeded 400,000 acres and were among the largest in the region’s history. These events killed thousands of cattle, contributed to several human fatalities, and damaged, displaced, or isolated rural communities. Model simulations indicate that wildfire risk will increase throughout the region as temperatures rise, particularly in the summer, and the duration of the fire season increases.”

According to the 2018 National Climate Assessment, “Freshwater inflows are critical to both aquatic ecosystems and wetlands in the Southern Great Plains. Both surface and groundwater depletion have led to dramatic changes of the aquatic and wetland communities in Kansas that not only impact inland species but have a dramatic effect on coastal species relying on the freshwater inflow to ensure the integrity of the coastal ecosystem. Whooping crane and many other migratory species flying through this region during both spring and fall are impacted.”

KCUR:  Climate Change Will Affect Infrastructure, Agriculture And Health Of Kansans.  “Kansans can expect rising temperatures and more extreme flooding in the future, according to the latest National Climate Assessment. Kansas has always experienced severe weather events. But as average temperatures rise, due in part to heat-trapping pollution released from fossil fuels, these severe weather events are predicted to become more extreme. That means periods of drought will be more severe, while storms will be more intense and lead to greater flooding.” [KCUR, 11/27/18]

MISSISSIPPI

According to the 2018 National Climate Assessment, “Extreme rainfall events have increased in frequency and intensity in the Southeast, and there is high confidence they will continue to increase in the future. … Across the Southeast since 2014, there have been numerous examples of intense rainfall events—many approaching levels that would be expected to occur only once every 500 years—that have made state or national news due to the devastating impact they had on inland communities. Of these events, four major inland flood events have occurred in just three years (2014–2016) in the Southeast, causing billions of dollars in damages and loss of life.”

Jackson Free Press:  Mississippi Towns Hit Hard Financially by Rising Sea Levels, Study Finds.  “Homes on the Mississippi Gulf Coast lost more than $263 million in value due to rising sea levels, a peer reviewed study by scientists with the First Street Foundation and Columbia University found. Rising sea levels hit Bay St. Louis hardest, with the city losing $95.4 million in home value over the 12 year study period between 2005 and 2017. ‘In Bay St. Louis, the average impacted home would be worth 49 percent more if tidal flooding were not a risk, and in Kiln, 41 percent more," First Street data science head Steven A. Alpine said. "These are the hardest-hit neighborhoods in Mississippi because homes and roads are at low elevations, and sea-level rise is increasing the frequency of flooding along the Jourdan River.’” [Jackson Free Press, 12/11/18]

NORTH CAROLINA

According to the 2018 National Climate Assessment, “Cities across the Southeast are experiencing more and longer summer heat waves. Nationally, there are only five large cities that have increasing trends exceeding the national average for all aspects of heat waves (timing, frequency, intensity, and duration), and three of these cities are in the Southeast region— Birmingham, New Orleans, and Raleigh. Sixty-one percent of major Southeast cities are exhibiting some aspects of worsening heat waves, which is a higher percentage than any other region of the country. The urban heat island effect (cities that are warmer than surrounding rural areas, especially at night) adds to the impact of heat waves in cities …. Southeastern cities including Memphis and Raleigh have a particularly high future heat risk.”

The News & Observer: North Carolina could feel like Florida or Mexico in a generation, researchers say. “North Carolina will likely feel like the Florida Panhandle or possibly like northern Mexico within a generation, according to a new interactive climate change map developed by researchers at the University of Maryland and North Carolina State University. In a paper released with the map, the researchers said they modeled 540 urban areas in the United States and Canada to show what the climate will be like in 2080 both with and without slowing down global carbon emissions.” [News & Observer, 2/15/19]

OHIO

According to the 2018 National Climate Assessment, “The Midwest is a major producer of a wide range of food and animal feed for national consumption and international trade. Increases in warm-season absolute humidity and precipitation have eroded soils, created favorable conditions for pests and pathogens, and degraded the quality of stored grain. Projected changes in precipitation, coupled with rising extreme temperatures before mid-century, will reduce Midwest agricultural productivity to levels of the 1980s without major technological advances.”

Toledo Blade: Examining the impact of climate change on northwest Ohio. “For this area, it’s not simply a matter of dealing with a little more heat and a little more of western Lake Erie’s noxious algae. Northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan are part of America’s great Midwestern heartland, home of agricultural crops — many of them corn and soybeans — that feed the world. The Great Lakes, too, remain among the nation’s most treasured natural resources. For the Toledo area, it’s these two segments of the local DNA most imperiled by modern society’s impact on the environment.” [Toledo Blade, 12/01/18]

OKLAHOMA

According to the 2018 National Climate Assessment, “More recently in 2016 and 2017, fires in Kansas and Oklahoma have exceeded 400,000 acres and were among the largest in the region’s history. These events killed thousands of cattle, contributed to sev­eral human fatalities, and damaged, displaced, or isolated rural communities. Model simu­lations indicate that wildfire risk will increase throughout the region as temperatures rise, particularly in the summer, and the duration of the fire season increases.”

According to the 2018 National Climate Assessment, “Precipitation totals for a 120-day period during the spring of 2015 in south-central Oklahoma were above 40 inches, approximately the average annual amount in many locations, largely associated with multiple episodes of very heavy rain. Numerous state and U.S highways experienced regional detours or closures. A rockslide on Interstate Highway 35 closed portions of the road for sev­eral weeks. Flooding in Oklahoma and Texas caused an estimated $2.6 billion in damage in 2015, with $1 million in emergency relief funds provided by the U.S. Department of Trans­portation’s Federal Highway Administration to assist in the repair of damaged roads. The increasing frequency of extreme precipitation that is projected by climate models is antici­pated to contribute to further vulnerability of existing highway infrastructure, although the magnitude and timing of projected precipita­tion extremes remain uncertain.”

Tulsa World: Latest climate change report for Oklahoma forecasts increase in extreme weather, agricultural disruption. “Oklahoma will experience an increase in extreme weather events, more days above 100 degrees and declining water access that will significantly challenge the state’s agriculture industry, according to a new federal climate change report. Higher temperatures — mostly caused by greenhouse-gas emissions, especially from burning fossil fuels — are depleting infrastructure, such as asphalt roads, and excessive heat is disrupting tribal ceremonial cycles, which rely on access to specific natural materials, according to the National Climate Assessment, a report developed by 13 federal agencies and released last week.” [Tulsa World, 11/28/18]

Business Insider: A fire in the US midwest is so big you can see it from space — two people have been killed in the blaze so far. “A blaze that broke out in Oklahoma earlier this week has claimed at least two lives, injured 20 others, and is still raging as of Thursday. The largest of the fires, the Rhea Fire, has scorched over 250,000 acres. Firefighters are continuing to battle the blaze as of Thursday, reports a local Fox News affiliate, but it's only about 15% contained. The fires have gotten so large that they're visible from space. … Wildfires have gotten worse in recent years because of climate change, and that trend is expected to continue as Earth's average temperature rises.” [Business Insider, 4/19/18]

TEXAS

According to the 2018 National Climate Assessment, “Climate change is anticipated to lead to higher average temperatures year-round and an increase in the frequency of very hot days (days with maximum temperatures above 100°F), with the number of such days possibly doubling by mid-21st century …. An increase in temperatures is virtually certain for the Southern Great Plains. Longer, hotter summers will place strain on cooling systems and energy utilities, road surfaces, and water resources, particularly during drought.”

Dallas Morning News: Climate change to bring North Texas longer droughts, heavy rains, 120-degree temps within 25 years. “Texas is particularly vulnerable to a changing climate. It has had more costly weather-related disasters than any other state, and those events will happen more often as air and ocean temperatures climb, scientists say… Between 2041 and 2050, Dallas-Fort Worth may see August temperatures rise from a mean of 86 degrees Fahrenheit at the end of the 20th century to 94 degrees, with extremes rising above 120, reports one study by scientists at the University of Texas at Arlington.  Longer droughts and more extreme rainstorms will pose a challenge for those who manage drinking water supplies, those who raise cattle, and those who oversee our roads and railways.” [Dallas Morning News, 2/15/18]

SOUTH CAROLINA

According to the 2018 National Climate Assessment, “Many cities across the Southeast are planning for the impacts sea level rise is likely to have on their infrastructure …. Flood events in Charleston, South Carolina, have been increasing, and by 2045 the city is projected to face nearly 180 tidal floods (flooding in coastal areas at high tide) per year, as compared to 11 floods per year in 2014. These floods affect tourism, transportation, and the economy as a whole. The city has responded by making physical modifications, developing a more robust disaster response plan, and improving planning and monitoring prior to flood events.”

The Post and Courier: 2018 was the year our changing climate became impossible to ignore in South Carolina. “This year, coastal erosion accelerated. Record tidal floods swamped miles of shoreline. Flooding was catastrophic from Hurricane Florence, and the storm almost became the most powerful hurricane ever to make landfall in South Carolina. Climate records are being broken with increasing frequency as air and seas warm. It’s become the new norm, researchers say. The ultimate costs will be exorbitant. And Charleston is quickly becoming Ground Zero for the threats.” [Post and Courier, 12/22/18]

UTAH

According to the 2018 National Climate Assessment, “Ecosystems can naturally slow climate change by storing carbon, but recent wildfires have made California ecosystems and Southwest forests net carbon emitters (they are releasing more carbon to the atmosphere than they are storing). Wildfire has also exacerbated the spread of invasive plant species and damaged habitat. For example, repeated wildfire in sagebrush in Nevada and Utah has caused extensive invasions of cheatgrass, reducing habitat for the endangered sage-grouse.”

Deseret News: Utah's wildfires, record heat and low snowpack — welcome to climate change, experts say. “A congressionally mandated climate change report predicts dire consequences for the United States if greenhouse gas emissions are not immediately reduced, adding that some of the most severe impacts will occur in Utah and other parts of the Southwest. Utah experts say those changes are not on the doorstep, they're already here. ‘We are just on the fringe of this. It is only going to get more intense with droughts that are longer and hotter, and snow becoming less common until we have no snow at all,’ predicted Brian McInerney, senior hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City.” [Deseret News, 12/02/18]

WEST VIRGINIA

According to the 2018 National Climate Assessment, “The changing climate of the Northeast threatens the health and well-being of residents through environmental changes that lead to health-related impacts and costs, including additional deaths, emergency room visits and hospitalizations, higher risk of infectious diseases, lower quality of life, and increased costs associated with healthcare utilization. Health impacts of climate change vary across people and communities of the Northeast and depend on social, socioeconomic, demographic, and societal factors; community adaptation efforts; and underlying individual vulnerability.”

Charleston Gazette-Mail: Climate change makes flood more likely, more damaging, experts say. “Heavy rainstorms like those that caused last week’s devasting flooding across a 12-county region of West Virginia are almost certainly made more frequent and more intense by global warming that is fueled by the buildup of greenhouse gas emissions, some of the nation’s top climate science experts say. A half-dozen climate scientists from around the country — asked what West Virginians should understand about the flooding and climate change — all said that residents should know that the overwhelming scientific evidence shows that the warming of the planet’s atmosphere is increasing the occurrence of and the seriousness of heavy rains.” [Charleston Gazette-Mail, 6/04/16]

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