The most alarming forecast coming out of climate report is the likelihood it will be ignored.
In an administration that leaks like a rusty faucet, the latest discharge to show up on The New York Times front page may be the least surprising yet: A draft report explaining how the United States is contributing to climate change, how the problem is worsening at an alarming rate and how the future depends on our willingness to curb greenhouse gas emissions. But the fact that it was released through back channels speaks volumes about where this country stands on climate science: The likelihood that the Trump administration will either rewrite the findings or sit on the report is so strong, one or more of its authors felt compelled to communicate directly with the American people lest the country be left in the dark.
None of that is shocking. Not the rise in global temperatures, which has been substantial in recent decades, not the certainty expressed regarding human contributions to it, not the evidence that climate change has had an impact on every part of the U.S. or that climate change has influenced the frequency and severity of extreme weather events. And most of all, it is wholly unsurprising that scientists with expertise in climate are fearful that under President Donald Trump, their years of evidence-gathering and carefully substantiated findings will be treated with all the care and respect given random utterances from the Howler monkeys at the Smithsonian's National Zoo. Climate change is real, and so is the Trump administration's willful ignorance of it.
But let's add some perspective on this. The report is not from Greenpeace or the Sierra Club. It isn't even from one grant-hungry researcher trying to be as alarmist as possible to attract attention (as political conservatives so often claim is the root of climate forecasting). It's from the National Climate Assessment, a federal interagency effort (it involves experts from no fewer than 13 government agencies) that has been tracking climate change since 1990. The point of these once-every-four-year assessments is to better prepare this country for the future, to synthesize the best available science (including dozens and dozens of studies from around the world) and to help the president and Congress understand what's going on so that they might set rational policy for the future.
The only question is whether President Trump or his leading climate science denier, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, will even bother to give the report much lip-service. President Trump cemented his backward approach to global warming with his June announcement that he intends for the U.S. to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, but Mr. Pruitt and others in the administration have been busy setting back climate policy in less high-profile ways, such as sabotaging the Clean Power Plan, which reduces carbon emissions from power plants; softening regulatory limits on methane discharges from oil and gas wells; opening up more federal land to drilling and approving pipelines that will spur greater fossil fuel consumption.
A climate report based on work conducted by scientists in 13 federal agencies is under active review at the White House, and its conclusions about the
By Steven Mufson
Aug 07, 2017 | 11:33 PM
There was a time when science was taken seriously, but that seemed to change on Jan. 20 when Mr. Trump was sworn into office. Now it's regarded as acceptable for a president to ignore the facts, whether it involves telling a Chesapeake Bay waterman that there's no sea-level rise going on even as the brackish waters are creeping ever closer or telling the coal industry that he's added 45,000 mining jobs when the Bureau of Labor Statistics pegs the number closer to 800. It isn't just that Mr. Trump lies, it's that he lies about his lying. Small wonder he goes through communications chiefs like wet wipes at a rib joint, they have to clean up the mess and then be discarded once their credibility has been exhausted.
Perhaps more rational people in government will recognize that the window to blunt the worst effects of climate change is rapidly closing. But Mr. Trump has no shortage of fellow deniers in Congress who are only to happy to ignore reality right along with him. Will the latest climate change report be ignored? Perhaps the better question is when will the country wake up and start paying attention to what the next generation is destined to inherit? More than half of the climate change since 1951 can be traced to human influence, the draft report concludes, and that's about the same percentage of Congress members who are prepared to sit on their hands and do nothing about the global catastrophe that's already begun.