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White House sees climate change effects in California, Texas, Florida

By Lesley Clark
McClatchy Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON President Barack Obama on Tuesday will release what the White House is calling the "most authoritative and comprehensive source of scientific information ever produced about how climate change is going to impact all regions of the United States."

White House advisor John Podesta said the report -- the product of four years of work by hundreds of climate scientists -- is aimed at "actionable science" -- delivering "practical, usable knowledge" that state and local officials can use as they plan for the effects of climate change.

He pointed to rising sea levels along Florida and California’s drought and resulting wildfires as early indicators of climate change.

“Building resilience towards what is certain to be a rising sea level is something that communities need to grapple with and need to grapple with it right now, in terms of their infrastructure investments, how they're thinking about the future,” Podesta said.

And he pushed back against Republicans who are looking to block the Obama administration from limiting the planet-warming carbon emissions of power plants.

“All I would say is that those have zero percent chance of working,” Podesta said of congressional efforts. “We're committed to moving forward with those rules. We're committed to maintaining the authority and the president's authority to ensure that the Clean Air Act is fully implemented.”

Obama has directed the Environmental Protection Agency to work with states and industry to set new pollution standards for power plants. The new rules are expected to be finalized by June 2 and Podesta said it’s on pace to meet the June deadline.

As part of the report's release, Obama will talk at the White House with national and local meteorologists from New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, and Columbia, South Carolina. The White House also will launch a three-day building summit on Wednesday, aimed at helping commercial and industrial buildings become at least 20 percent more efficient by 2020.

Obama has been pressing more use of solar and other sources of alternative energy, Podesta said, but "we obviously need all hands on deck if we're gonna avoid the most catastrophic impact of climate change."

He said that since Obama took office, electricity generation from solar has increased more than 10 times and electricity production from wind power has tripled. Solar energy was the second-largest source of new electricity added to the grid last year, after natural gas, he said.

To climate change deniers, Podesta suggested they should “look out your window and you'll begin to feel the effects.

“There's an overwhelming amount of evidence that it exists, that climate change is real,” he said. “If you want to try to side with the polluters and argue to the American public that climate change is not happening, today, tomorrow and certainly in the future, that's going to be a losing argument.”

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