Climate change is already having "pervasive, wide-ranging" effects on "nearly every aspect of our society," a task force representing more than 20 federal agencies reported Tuesday.
"These impacts will influence how and where we live and work as well as our cultures, health and environment," the report states. "It is therefore imperative to take action now to adapt to a changing climate."
Indeed, climate change has begun to affect the ability of government agencies to fulfill their missions, reports the White House Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force.
The group is led by the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
It is made up of representatives from more than 20 federal agencies, departments and offices, including the Department of Commerce, the National Intelligence Council, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Pentagon. That's diverse - and it's definitive.
President Obama convened the task force in October, directing it to look into whether climate change was affecting the United States and, if so, what might be done about it.
On Tuesday, the group issued preliminary findings. As to the question of whether climate change is impacting our country, the report is emphatic.
"The Task Force has found that climate change is affecting, and will continue to affect, nearly every aspect of our society and the environment," the report states. "Some of the impacts are increased severity of floods, droughts, and heat waves, increased wildfires and sea level rise.
"Climate change impacts are pervasive, wide-ranging and affect the core systems of our society: transportation, ecosystems, agriculture, business, infrastructure, water, and energy, among others," the report continues. "Climate change already is affecting the ability of Federal agencies to fulfill their missions."
When reports like this come out of a White House task force, each word is parsed, discussed and vetted by all participants. It's a consensus document, meaning it reflects the view of the group as a whole. That makes writing the report a challenge, but it ensures authenticity and weight.
Those are two things notably lacking from the raft of climate change deniers who have been having a field day of late trying to rally an assault on science with a handful of stolen e-mails and a couple of minor errors in a 2,800-page report by the International Panel on Climate Change.
These same critics will likely try to paint the task force report in partisan terms. In fact, it relies on sound science developed over two decades through four administrations – two of them Republican, and two Democratic.
The White House task force tells us the truth. Our climate is changing, and it's affecting our country in fundamental ways.
One reason is that U.S. smokestacks and tailpipes will dump roughly 6 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the Earth's atmosphere this year alone. That's nearly one-fifth of the world total of this heat-trapping pollution.
We can do better.
The clean energy and climate legislation being drafted in the Senate can put us on the path to curbing carbon pollution. It can put Americans back to work building the next generation of energy-efficient cars, homes and workplaces. And it can make our country more secure by cutting our dependence on foreign oil in half. It needs and deserves our support.
I look forward to October, when the task force issues its final report.
A few things, though, are already clear. Climate change is happening, right here, right now. It threatens our future, our children, our way of life. It's time we face the facts and deal with what's happening right before our eyes – before it’s too late.