Trump team denials on 2018 U.S. climate report

From ToxicLeaks

The U.S. Fourth Climate Assessment Report[edit | edit source]

The United States government requires that at least once every four years, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) must issue a comprehensive report on climate change. The USGCRP is mandated to do so by the U.S. Congress, and the report is designed to include 13 different federal agencies, from NASA to Energy, to Health and Human Services, to help them coordinate climate action.

The November 2018 climate assessment report is actually Volume 2 of the report, and follows the 2017 report dedicated to physical science.  It is created by more than 300 experts, alongside 1,000 citizen participants in 40 cities, all focused on the implications of the climate science for every facet of society.

The authors, employed by the U.S. government and scientists and experts from the private sector, volunteer their time to produce a 1,600-page, fully peer-reviewed document that delivers broad insights as well as data specific to 10 geographic regions. So it’s difficult for many Americans concerned about climate change, and for their peers around the globe, to understand why staunch climate denier President Donald Trump and key administration leaders dismissed the expertise of their own scientists  – even going so far as to bury it by releasing the long-awaited report on the Friday of a holiday weekend.

Key findings of the 2018 climate report[edit | edit source]

The 2018 report boldly states that the effects of climate change already are experienced in the United States, with heat waves, drought, flooding, coastal sea level rise and other climate phenomena. Extreme storms threaten coastal regions and the interior alike, with interconnected factors creating complex and cascading risks. Crop yields, for example, may decrease with higher Midwest temperatures, but in many cases also because of excess atmospheric CO2 , rainfall pattern shifts, and changes to insect habitats. In high-impact scenarios, the report sees an additional 9,000 premature deaths tied to rising temperatures across 49 U.S. cities by 2090,with more than USD$150 billion in productivity and labor-hour losses.

While the report communicates potential outcomes based on different modeling scenarios, it’s already too late to avoid some climate change affects. The climate assessment authors report that holding to a 2°C warming threshold, consistent with the upper window of the Paris Agreement on Climate agreed to at COP21 in 2015, is still possible with aggressive action on emissions reduction and proactive climate-proof decisions. The United States under Trump has left the agreement and stalled on climate progress.

Response from the Trump administration

The Fourth Climate Assessment Report drew a disappointing response from Trump – a longtime climate science denier – who scoffed at the findings. “I don’t believe it,” he flatly said when asked by reporters.

In a Washington Post interview, Trump said people like himself have “very high levels of intelligence” but are not “believers” in climate science, which he has claimed in the past is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. Many of his supporters believe climate science is a socialist agenda, meant to undermine U.S. sovereignty and facilitate a large-scale transfer of wealth. Trump also claimed that the U.S. currently has the cleanest-ever levels of air and water – not necessarily true, and not a meaningful indicator of future climate change impacts –  and blamed China, Russia, South American countries and other parts of Asia.

The White House press office said the climate report, written and reviewed by in part its own scientists, was not fact-based or data-driven, and used “the most extreme modeled scenario, which contradicts long-established trends.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a critical member of the team of 13 agencies responsible for the report, has remained silent on the findings. In fact, all the relevant agencies did so with the exception of NASA, which held a press briefing with reporters at the time of its release.

On November 28, the acting head of EPA and former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler said he had not read the report and had “some questions about the assumptions.” He also said the previous administration under former President Barack Obama was responsible for the report written in 2016 during his tenure.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the Obama administration told the report’s authors to take a look at the worst case scenario for this report,” Wheeler said, adding that changes in modeling will be necessary for future reports. Former Obama officials denied any intentional painting of the dire climate portrait.

Resistance from climate science community[edit | edit source]

Obama’s former science advisor, John Holdren, said the Trump administration objections were a “flimsy attempt to discredit the careful and comprehensive work of some of the best climate scientists.” Many of those scientists were targeted by U.S. conservatives who accused them of reporting the alarming findings on the climate for money, prestige and personal gain. Rick Santorum, a former U.S. senator and conservative Republican, was challenged by climate scientists including Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University, who were outraged at the ethical insinuations.

All the more concerning is that the Trump administration does not have a meaningful or coherent climate policy moving forward, and continues to dismantle environmental regulations and protections. As Democratic Sen. Cory Booker said, Trump’s climate response isn’t just embarrassing. It’s catastrophic.