The United States is already feeling the heat from climate change — and the damage could cost hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century if more preventive measures aren't taken now, a new federal report has found.
"Earth's climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities," says the report, which was filed on behalf of 13 different federal agencies.
"The impacts of global climate change are already being felt in the United States and are projected to intensify in the future—but the severity of future impacts will depend largely on actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the changes that will occur."
The report had originally been scheduled for release in December, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced on Wednesday that it would be released Friday. Releasing information on the day after Thanksgiving is generally considered a way to minimize its impact, since many people don't follow the news closely on long holiday weekends.
Former Vice-President Al Gore accused the Trump Administration of trying to bury the troubling report, which is critical of the Trump-allied coal industry.
"The President may try to hide the truth, but his own scientists and experts have made it as stark and clear as possible," he said in a statement.
President Donald Trump has been a sceptic about climate change science — he tweeted in 2012 that the "concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive."
He later claimed he was joking. Last month he told CBS' "60 Minutes" he didn't think climate change was a hoax but "I don't know that it's man-made."
"I think something's happening. Something's changing and it'll change back again," he said.
The report found it's not changing back any time soon — and said the country has to be prepared.
It says global warming helped stoke the wildfires in California and powerful hurricanes in the South. Those problems will only get worse, the report says, with potential drought and wildfire issues looming in the South, and more flooding likely to strike the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
Climate change has worldwide implications as well, which also means more trouble for the United States.
"The impacts of climate change beyond our borders are expected to increasingly affect our trade and economy, including import and export prices and U.S. businesses with overseas operations and supply chains," it says. "With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century—more than the current gross domestic product (GDP) of many U.S. states."
It warns of a "cascading effect" that will alter lives and economies across the country, causing fuel shortages and increased power outages.
"Extreme weather and climate-related impacts on one system can result in increased risks or failures in other critical systems, including water resources, food production and distribution, energy and transportation, public health, international trade, and national security," the report says.
"Expected increases in the severity and frequency of heavy precipitation events will affect inland infrastructure in every region, including access to roads, the viability of bridges, and the safety of pipelines. Flooding from heavy rainfall, storm surge, and rising high tides is expected to compound existing issues with ageing infrastructure in the Northeast."
While much of the damage is already done, the effects could be lessened by continuing to cut down on greenhouse emissions and upgrading ageing infrastructure, the report says.
"Actions to plan for and adapt to more frequent, widespread, and severe coastal flooding, such as shoreline protection and conservation of coastal ecosystems, would decrease direct losses and cascading impacts on other sectors and parts of the country," the study says.
Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., tweeted that the report shows "why fossil fuel-funded officials shouldn't be writing climate change policy."
"People are going to die if we don't start addressing climate change ASAP," she wrote.
There was no immediate comment on the report from the White House.
On Wednesday, Trump noted a record cold snap hit the northeast, tweeting, "Whatever happened to Global Warming?"