House Dems tally violent weather in push for climate action

Two senior House Democrats are circulating a detailed tally of extreme weather in the U.S. and worldwide as they seek to rebuild political support for congressional action to battle global warming.

Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) – authors of the big climate-change bill that narrowly passed the House in 2009 – released a report Tuesday about record-setting heat waves, droughts, violent storms and other costly disasters.

The report arrives at a time when climate-change legislation is frozen on Capitol Hill. Advocates are instead playing defense against GOP efforts to scuttle federal greenhouse gas regulations that Republicans call economically burdensome.

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“While the Republican-led House of Representatives refuses to take climate action, carbon pollution is mixing a deadly cocktail of heat and extreme weather that is costing lives and billions of dollars in damages,” Markey, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement.

Environmentalists, including Al Gore, are increasingly pointing to extreme weather as they make the case for emissions curbs.

The new Democratic report lays out data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other sources to show the uptick in the types of extreme weather that scientists say a warmer planet will bring with increasing frequency.

“Climate change has contributed to shattered records and unprecedented weather catastrophes, like those the United States has experienced this summer. It’s as if global warming has stacked the deck with extra jokers, making some weather events more frequent and severe and increasing the chances of an event far outside the norm,” the report states.

It summarizes data on heat, drought and other events in the U.S. and worldwide. For instance, it notes that 2012 brought the warmest July ever in the lower 48 states, according to records that go back the late 1800s.

The January-August stretch was the warmest first eight months recorded in the contiguous U.S., breaking the 2006 record.

The report also looks at global weather and trends, such as the new record-low in Arctic sea ice measured in mid-September. Overall, it states that global weather has been “extreme over the last several years.”

“This August was the fourth-warmest August globally — marking the 330th consecutive month that global average temperatures were above the 20th-century average. Additionally, 2011 witnessed severe drought in the Horn of Africa, Australia’s third-wettest year in its 112-year period of recordkeeping, massive floods in Thailand and Pakistan, and record or near-record warmth in parts of Western Europe during the spring, including temperatures in Germany almost 7.9 F (4.4 C) above average,” the report states.

It also describes the economic impact of disasters, noting nearly $60 billion in estimated damages from extreme weather events in the U.S. last year.

Waxman and Markey’s emissions-capping and energy bill stalled in the Senate in 2010, and even a scaled-back version died without coming up for a vote in the upper chamber.

Waxman said the report shows “overwhelming” evidence that climate change is under way and should prompt a change of course on Capitol Hill. He criticized Republicans who “deny the science and block action.”

“We don’t have any more time to waste,” said Waxman, the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Democratic staff for the energy and resources panels prepared the report.