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Report offers dire warning on climate change

Climate change is taking an increasing toll on the nation’s environment, health and economy, and the damage will intensify over the century without swift action to slash greenhouse gas emissions, according to a major scientific report released Friday by federal agencies.

The congressionally mandated report by 13 federal agencies, the first of its kind under the Trump administration, found that climate change is already being felt in communities across the United States. It projects widespread and growing devastation as increasing temperatures, rising sea levels, worsening wildfires, more intense storms and other cascading effects harm our ecosystems, infrastructure and society.

The assessment paints a dire picture of the worsening effects of global warming as nearly every corner of the country grows more at risk from extreme heat, more devastating storms, droughts, and wildfires, waning snowpack and other threats to critical infrastructure, air quality, water supplies and vulnerable communities. By century’s end, the report projects thousands of additional deaths annually from worsening heat waves and air pollution, as well as declining crop yields and the loss of key coral reef and sea ice ecosystems.

Roughly $1 trillion in coastal real estate is threatened by rising sea levels, storm surges and high-tide flooding exacerbated by climate change, according to the report.

The report also warns of economic consequences of inaction. Without substantial global emissions reductions and local adaptation measures, the report says, “climate change is expected to cause growing losses to American infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century.”

If emissions continue to climb, economic losses will be in the hundreds of billions annually in some sectors by the end of the century—“more than the current gross domestic product (GDP) of many U.S. states,” the report says.

The assessment found climate change already affecting California and the Southwest through extreme drought, rising sea levels, heat-related deaths and increased wildfire risk. The area burned across the western U.S. from 1984 to 2015 was twice what it would have been if climate change had not occurred, according to analyses cited in the report.

The report also details regional-level climate impacts across the nation in an effort to provide local officials with tools to respond and adapt.

The assessment leaves no doubt that humans are to blame for the changing climate, and that the extent of harm we experience depends on decisions we make today.

“Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities,” the report says. “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 assessment’s dire conclusions are at odds with President Donald Trump’s efforts to dismiss the threat of climate change and his administration’s push to slash environmental regulations and allow more planet-warming pollution.

The Trump administration has moved to dismantle Obama-era climate regulations and replace them with fossil fuel-friendly policies that allow more planet-warming emissions from power plants, cars and trucks. Trump has vowed to pull out of the international Paris climate agreement, while seeking to cast doubt on the scientific consensus that climate change is accelerating and caused by human activity.

Earlier this week Trump mocked climate science, tweeting about cold weather in the Northeast and asking “Whatever happened to Global Warming?”

In a statement, White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said “to address future risks, the administration supports a strong economy and access to affordable, reliable energy, which are integral to advancing technology and innovation and the development of resilient, modern infrastructure.”

She also said the climate report “is largely based on the most extreme scenario” and called for future installments to have a “more transparent and data-driven process that includes fuller information on the range of potential scenarios and outcomes”—a claim that one of the report’s lead authors said was “demonstrably false.”

“I can confirm it considers all scenarios, from those where we go carbon negative before end of century to those where carbon emissions continue to rise,” Texas Tech University climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe responded on Twitter.

The Trump administration did not block the release of the report, a product of more than two years of work by more than 300 of the nation’s leading scientists both in and outside of government. It is one volume of the National Climate Assessment, which the federal government is required by law to produce every four years.

But federal officials faced criticism over its timing, with environmentalists, Democratic lawmakers and scientists among those accusing the Trump administration of trying to bury the report by releasing it early, on a slow news day the Friday after Thanksgiving.

The document’s release was important in tackling a misconception by Americans that the changing climate doesn’t harm them personally, instead “showing how climate change is already affecting each one of us, whether we live in Texas or Minnesota or Hawaii or Florida,” said Hayhoe, the Texas Tech climate scientist.

“This report is clear: It’s real. It’s us. It’s here. It’s bad. It’s getting worse. But our choices can and do make a difference. So: act now,” Hayhoe tweeted.

Environmentalists said the assessment provides evidence that climate change is not a political debate but an existential threat.

“With the lives and health of millions of Americans at risk from worsened hurricanes, droughts, wildfires and air pollution, we urge President Trump and his administration to heed the dire warnings in this report and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, vehicles and other sources to save American lives,” said Harold P. Wimmer, president of the American Lung Association.

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Revived Brodhead tree farm exudes hometown holiday feeling


Rick Easland was born on Christmas Day.

Some might say that’s a sign Rick was meant to run a Christmas tree farm, but it was his wife, Cheryl, who had the idea.

Cheryl and Rick Easland bought the former McClaren Tree Farm in 2015.

As a child growing up in Brodhead, Cheryl frequently visited McClaren with her mom. Years later, she suggested to Rick that they buy it.

McClaren Tree Farm was run by Monte and Jean McClaren from 1998 until shortly after Monte died on Christmas Day 2010, according to his obituary.

Many people Cheryl and Rick have met over the last few years were loyal customers of the McClarens. Now they return as regulars of the Easland Tree Farm, Cheryl said.

Patrick McMahon of Rockford, Illinois, said his family has visited the tree farm for years because it has trees large enough for his big family.

McMahon is the eighth of 13 kids. The McMahons usually have two or three Christmas trees in their home each year, he said.

The Easlands’ tree farm sits on more than 50 acres on the Rock County side of County T, just south of the Brodhead city limits.

Friday was the farm’s first day of the season, and Rick said he was impressed by the number of people they saw coming to chop down trees.

Maybe it was the moderate weather with temperatures hovering in the high 40s. Maybe it was the rush of Black Friday shoppers out and about with cash in hand.

Or perhaps it was the warm smell of popcorn coming from the shack where patrons buy their trees.

Cheryl got a kick out of a young girl who ran up to the shack yelling, “You have popcorn again! I can smell it!”

The Easlands offer popcorn and candy canes to anyone stopping by.

Cambria Elmer, 4, eagerly asked her mom, Karen, if they could get popcorn before they left the farm Friday.

Cambria and her sister, Hayden, assisted their parents and grandmother, Laurie Ganshert-Slusser, in picking out a tree for their grandmother’s porch.

Anthony Wahl 

Keith and Karen Elmer and daughters Hayden and Cambria help find grandmother Laurie Ganshert-Slusser a tree for her Monroe house at Easland Tree Farm in Brodhead on Friday.

Ganshert-Slusser recruits the girls to help her pick out a tree that “needs a little love” every year. She displays it proudly on her front porch at her Monroe home, she said.

Her cats prevent her from keeping a tree inside, so she chooses trees that are dying or otherwise undesirable to other patrons because she doesn’t like to see the good ones get chopped down.

Many of the farm’s larger trees are leftovers from the McClaren years, Rick said.

Rick graduated from UW-Madison with degrees in soil science and agronomy. He plants new trees every spring in different sections to preserve homes for wildlife, he said.

The couple have planted at least 4,000 new trees since they took over the farm, Rick said.

Anthony Wahl 

Danae Bump pushes through thick branches while looking for her husband during Christmas tree shopping Friday at Easland Tree Farm in Brodhead.

The Elmer family combed through hundreds of trees before finding the right one for Grandma’s porch. After careful inspection of the chosen tree, Cambria and Hayden granted their father, Keith, permission to approach with his ax.

“Daddy’s coming in,” Hayden squealed in excitement.

Anthony Wahl 

Keith and Karen Elmer, daughters Hayden and Cambria and grandma Laurie Ganshert-Slusser get in the truck after tying down the Christmas tree they chose at Brodhead’s Easland Tree Farm on Friday.

Obituaries and death notices for Nov. 24, 2018

Pansy E. “Pam” Francis

Aubri Arden Moore

Raymond A. Quade

Jose Carrera Reyes

Leslie A. Weerts

Trevor Vaughn Wheeler

In era of online retail, Black Friday still lures a crowd


It would have been easy to turn on their computers at home over plates of leftover turkey and take advantage of the Black Friday deals most retailers now offer online.

But across the country, thousands of shoppers flocked to stores on Thanksgiving or woke up before dawn the next day to take part in this most famous ritual of American consumerism.

Shoppers spent their holiday lined up outside the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, by 4 p.m. Thursday, and the crowd had swelled to 3,000 people by the time doors opened at 5 a.m. Friday morning. In Ohio, a group of women was so determined, they booked a hotel room Thursday night to be closer to the stores. In New York City, one woman went straight from a dance club to a department store in the middle of the night.

Many shoppers said Black Friday is as much about the spectacle as it is about doorbuster deals.

Kati Anderson said she stopped at Cumberland Mall in Atlanta on Friday morning for discounted clothes as well as “the people watching.” Her friend, Katie Nasworthy, said she went to the mall instead of shopping online because she likes to see the Christmas decorations.

“It doesn’t really feel like Christmas until now,” said Kim Bryant, shopping in suburban Denver with her daughter and her daughter’s friend, who had lined up at 5:40 a.m., then sprinted inside when the doors opened at 6 a.m.

Brick-and-mortar stores have worked hard to prove they can counter the competition from online behemoth Amazon. From Macy’s to Target and Walmart, retailers are blending their online and store shopping experience with new tools like digital maps on smartphones and more options for shoppers to buy online and pick up at stores. And customers, frustrated with long checkout lines, can check out at Walmart and other stores with a salesperson in store aisles.

Consumers nearly doubled their online orders that they picked up at stores from Wednesday to Thanksgiving, according to Adobe Analytics, which tracks online spending.

Priscilla Page, 28, punched her order number into a kiosk near the entrance of a Walmart in Louisville, Kentucky. She found a good deal online for a gift for her boyfriend, then arrived at the store to retrieve it.

“I’ve never Black Friday-shopped before,” she said, as employees delivered her bag minutes later. “I’m not the most patient person ever. Crowds, lines, waiting, it’s not really my thing. This was a lot easier.”

The holiday shopping season presents a big test for a U.S. economy, whose overall growth so far this year has relied on a burst of consumer spending. Americans upped their spending during the first half of 2018 at the strongest pace in four years, yet retail sales gains have tapered off recently. The sales totals over the next month will be a good indicator as to whether consumers simply paused to catch their breath or feel less optimistic about the economy in 2019.

The National Retail Federation, the nation’s largest retail trade group, is expecting holiday retail sales to increase as much as 4.8 percent over 2017 for a total of $720.89 billion. The sales growth marks a slowdown from last year’s 5.3 percent, but remains healthy.

The retail economy is also tilting steeply toward online shopping. Over the past 12 months, purchases at non-store retailers such as Amazon have jumped 12.1 percent as sales at traditional department stores have slumped 0.3 percent. Adobe Analytics reported Thursday that Thanksgiving reached a record $3.7 billion in online retail sales, up 28 percent from the same year ago period. For Black Friday, online spending was on track to hit more than $6.4 billion, according to Adobe.

Target reported that shoppers bought big ticket items like TVs, iPads and Apple Watches. Among the most popular toy deals were Lego, L.O.L. Surprise from MGA Entertainment and Mattel’s Barbie. It said gamers picked up video game consoles like Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Others reported stumbling onto more obscure savings. At a Cincinnati mall, Bethany Carrington scored a $29 all-in-one trimmer for her husband’s nose hair needs and, for $17, “the biggest Mr. Potato Head I’ve ever seen.”

Black Friday itself has morphed from a single day when people got up early to score doorbusters into a whole month of deals. Plenty of major stores including Macy’s, Walmart and Target started their deals on Thanksgiving evening. But some families are sticking by their Black Friday traditions.

“We boycotted Thursday shopping; that’s the day for family. But the experience on Friday is just for fun,” said Michelle Wise, shopping at Park Meadows Mall in Denver with her daughters, 16-year-old Ashleigh and 14-year-old Avery.

By midday Friday, there had not been widespread reports of the deal-inspired chaos that has become central to Black Friday lore—fistfights over discounted televisions or stampedes toward coveted sale items.

Two men at an Alabama mall got into a fight, and one of the men opened fire, shooting the other man and a 12-year-old bystander, both of whom were taken to the hospital with injuries. Police shot and killed the gunman. Authorities have not said whether the incident was related to Black Friday shopping or if it stemmed from an unrelated dispute.

Candice Clark arrived at the Walmart in Louisville with her 19-year-old daughter Desiree Douthitt, looked around and remarked at how calm it all seemed. They have long been devotees of Black Friday deals and for years braved the crowds and chaos. About 10 years ago, Clark’s son got hit in the head with a griddle as shoppers wrestled over it. They saw one woman flash a Taser and threaten to use it on anyone who came between her and her desired fondue pot.

They’ve watched over the years as the traditional madness of the day has dissipated as shopping transitioned to online and stores stretched their sales from a one-day sprint to a dayslong marathon.

“It seems pretty normal in here,” said Roy Heller, as he arrived at the Louisville Walmart, a little leery of Black Friday shopping but pleasantly surprised to find that he didn’t even have to stand in line.

He had tried to buy his son a toy robot on Amazon, but it was sold out. Friday morning, he frantically searched the internet and found one single robot left, at a Walmart 25 miles from his home. He bought it online and arrived an hour later to pick it up.

Employees delivered his bag, he held it up and declared: “I got the last one in Louisville!”