Expert: Federal climate report represents a "sea change"

Following the release of a federal report saying Americans are now seeing the effects climate change, an expert noted out economics, perhaps even more than science, will likely have the biggest impact on the national debate.

"Some things are rather easy to implement. For example, more efficient car engines so that American cars are as good as European and Japanese cars in terms of fuel efficiency. More difficult, however, are those that involve jobs and economic livelihoods of people. ... As people talk about jobs, (it will be about) the coal industry and are our renewable technologies ready for primetime," CBS News science contributor Michio Kaku, a physics professor at the City University of New York, explained on "CBS This Morning."

The National Climate Assessment, released Tuesday, shows average temperatures are rising in most of the country. In parts of the Northeast, Southwest, and Great Plains, it is more than one and a half degrees hotter than it was a century ago. The study was produced by more than 300 scientists and other experts.

Referring to the report, Kaku remarked it is "dramatically different" from all other reports on climate change. "Previous reports talk about climate change as being in the future, maybe decades into the future," he said. "This report says ... it's here and now. It has arrived. It's a fact of life, costing perhaps hundreds of billions of dollars in property damage.' ... We're talking about a sea change, a difference in attitude in the scientific community.

Kaku added, "This was an American study. Some people criticized the U.N. report because there's some kind of U.N. conspiracy. This was a homegrown American study done by about 300 American scientists."

And the real implications on life in the U.S. are now being seen, Kaku said.

"(There's a) 71 percent increase in rains in the Northeast, even as California suffers from a massive drought," he said. "This translates into economic damage, about $100 billion. Hurricane Sandy cost $65 billion. The drought in the American Southwest, $30 billion. Forest fires ravaging Colorado and the Rockies, $1 billion. This is now being translated into real economic terms meaning that people's homes are in danger."