Over and again we have heard the scientific evidence. Over and again we have seen the headlines of real or projected climate impacts. And most importantly, over and again we have seen with our own eyes how our climate is changing right in front of us.

The time to act on climate change is now. Right now. This week, for the first time ever, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on comprehensive energy and climate legislation.

A tremendous amount of effort has gone into crafting this legislation, tailoring it to create a new energy and climate platform that aims to serve a wide range of interests across the United States. And getting this legislation right is an absolute must.

But sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. For this bill is just one act in the play that will unfold as we head to Copenhagen, where world leaders will meet in December to craft a new global climate solution.

Reducing emissions in the United States — one of the world’s two largest emitters and the largest source of the emissions already in the atmosphere — will be essential to a global solution, and a global solution is what we need to minimize the impacts we will feel right here at home.

Last week’s Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States report — a massively comprehensive scientific report released by 13 federal agencies — outlined some very clear realities for the United States if nothing is done to slow global emissions.

Some of the impacts that are already here or are headed our way:

  • In the Northeast, cities that currently experience just a few days above 100°F each summer would average 20 such days per summer. Signature products — apples, cranberries, maple syrup – are likely to become unavailable, as suitable growing conditions move northward to Canada. Only Maine is expected to support viable ski resorts, and people, many from rural areas, who work in the $7.6 billion winter snow and ice sports industry will have to find alternative sources of income.
  • By the end of the century, north Florida is projected to have more than 165 days (nearly six months) per year over 90ºF, almost three times as many as in the 1960s and ’70s. The increase in very hot days will have consequences for human health, drought and wildfires.
  • America’s breadbasket — states such as Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa — will face the greatest temperature increases in the country in the coming years if nothing is done to combat climate change. Temperatures in these fertile areas could jump more than 10 degrees by the end of the century, while droughts and flooding caused by climate change will threaten the nation’s $200 billion agriculture industry.
  • In California and the Southwest, where populations are still growing, spring precipitation is expected to decrease from 20–40 percent by the end of the century. That’s 20 – 40 percent less water for a growing population in a warming environment.

These impacts can’t be stopped by U.S. legislation alone, but U.S. legislation is essential to stopping these impacts. Much of the world is waiting on U.S. legislation and leadership so that all countries can cooperate in a global effort to stabilize our climate.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act is urgently needed to provide the catalyst to a global solution on climate change.

(Image: impacts in the Southwest. Source: Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States Report.)

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