President Donald Trump has spent the first six months of his presidency pushing back against evidence that human activity accelerates climate change, and government scientists worry his administration could try to suppress a study that offers pretty irrefutable evidence to the contrary.
The 545-page report drafted by 13 government agencies as part of the congressionally mandated National Climate Assessment, shows average temperatures in the United States have risen rapidly since 1980 to reach the warmest temperatures of the past 1,500 years, and Americans are already feeling the effects.
It notes that worldwide it is “extremely likely” that more than half of the global temperature increase since 1951 can be linked to humans.
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“Evidence for a changing climate abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans,” a draft of the report states. It was leaked to The New York Times amid concerns the Trump administration would try to bury the report.
The National Academy of Sciences has signed off on the report, but the 13 federal agencies involved, some of which are headed by climate change deniers, must sign off too before it is released publicly.
“This report confirms what scientists have already been saying for some time: climate change is real and already underway. It strengthens the case that this is not just something that will occur in the future and/or affect people far away,” Naomi Oreskes, a Harvard history of science professor who has closely studied the causes and effects of climate change, told Metro. “And of course it is crucial for scientists to explain this clearly since the level of disinformation emanating from the White House is sky high.”
Since taking over the White House, Trump has deleted climate change information from government websites, handpicked a climate-change denier to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, rolled back nearly two-dozen Obama-era protections and started to formally withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement, a landmark agreement to reduce carbon emissions that Trump called a “bad deal” for America.
But is it a bad deal? It’s true the United States was working toward zero emissions at a quicker rate than countries like China, but the U.S. also has much more infrastructure already in place to aid in achieving that goal.
The report concludes that even if humans stopped emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere right now (as in, right this second), the world would still warm by 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit (0.3 degrees Celsius) by the end of the century, which — though less than the projected rise of 2 degrees Celsius — could still cause massive changes to global climate.
Small differences in global temperatures can have a huge impact on climate and consequently, life on Earth, according to the Times.
In the U.S. this means places like the Southwest and Southeast are drying up while the Plains and Midwest are getting wetter. Sea level rise is a major coming concern for coastal areas as the surface, air and ground temperatures in Alaska and the Arctic are rising twice as quickly as the global average.
The evidence is damning, if unsurprising to those who have followed developments in climate science. While the report stops short of policy advice, but it did throw some support for the Paris climate agreement saying if the 200 nations that agreed to limit or cut fossil fuel emissions make good on those promises, it would be a first step toward keeping global warming at manageable levels.