US scientists continue to counter Trump's climate claims

A new federal report calls into question the wisdom of the president's environmental and energy policies.

Matthew Brown/AP/File
A haul truck with a 250-ton capacity carries coal from the Spring Creek strip mine near Decker, Mont., on Nov. 15, 2016. As President Trump touts new oil pipelines and pledges to revive the nation’s struggling coal mines, federal scientists are warning that burning fossil fuels is already driving a steep increase in the United States of heat waves, droughts, and floods.

As President Trump touts new oil pipelines and pledges to revive the nation's struggling coal mines, federal scientists are warning that burning fossil fuels is already driving a steep increase in the United States of heat waves, droughts, and floods.

It is the latest example of collisions between Mr. Trump's environmental policies and the facts presented by his government's experts.

Contradicting Trump's claims that climate change is a "hoax," the draft report representing the consensus of 13 federal agencies concludes that the evidence global warming is being driven by human activities is "unambiguous." That directly undercuts statements by Trump and his Cabinet casting doubt on whether the warming observed around the globe is being primarily driven by man-made carbon pollution.

"There are no alternative explanations, and no natural cycles are found in the observational record that can explain the observed changes in climate," says the report, citing thousands of peer-reviewed studies. "Evidence for a changing climate abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans."

Faced with reams of evidence compiled by federal scientists that conflicts with their policy positions, Trump and his advisers frequently cite the work of industry-funded think tanks. Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt and Energy Secretary Rick Perry have championed the formation of a "red-team, blue-team" exercise where climate-change skeptics would publicly debate mainstream climate scientists.

Submitted as part of the upcoming National Climate Assessment, the draft federal report sends the overriding message that failing to curb carbon pollution now will exacerbate negative consequences in the future. That assessment calls into question the wisdom of Trump's environmental and energy policies, which seek to boost US production and consumption of fossil fuels even as the world's other leading economies promote cleaner sources of energy.

An early version of the report, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, was distributed widely in December for review by leading scientists. The New York Times published a copy Monday.

The US Global Change Research Program, which will edit and produce the final climate report, did not respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment on Tuesday.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders criticized the Times for reporting on the draft document "without first verifying its contents with the White House or any of the federal agencies directly involved with climate and environmental policy."

She then declined to comment on the report.

"The White House will withhold comment on any draft report before its scheduled release date," Ms. Sanders said.

The assessment has generally been released every four years under a federal initiative mandated by Congress in 1990. The current draft for 2018, targeted for release later this year, largely builds on the conclusions of the 2014 assessment released under the Obama administration.

The assessment said global temperatures will continue to rise without steep reductions in the burning of fossil fuels, with increasingly dire effects on the lives of every American.

Worldwide, 15 of the past 16 years have been the warmest years on record. Today, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said 2017 is on track to be the second warmest for the United States.

Scientists from all over the world have documented warming in the air and water, melting glaciers, disappearing snow, shrinking sea ice, and rising sea level. The report said the United States will see temperature increases of at least 2.5 degrees F. over the next few decades, even with significant cuts to carbon pollution.

Even if humans stop spewing heat-trapping gases today, the world will warm another half a degree, the report said, citing high confidence in those calculations. Scientists, such as Stanford University's Chris Field, say that even a few tenths of a degree of warming can have a dramatic impact on human civilization and the natural environment.

"Every increment in warming is an increment in risk," said Mr. Field, who wasn't part of the report but reviewed it for The National Academy of Sciences.

Trump, who has called climate change a "total con job" and "hoax" perpetrated to harm US economic competitiveness, has spearheaded a wholesale scrapping of Obama-era initiatives that sought to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants and other sources. Last week, Trump's administration formally told the United Nations that the US intends to pull out of the international climate accord signed in 2015, in which nearly 200 nations pledged to reduce carbon emissions.

US climate scientists have watched these policy developments with increasing alarm, with some expressing concern the Trump administration might seek to bury or significantly water down the quadrennial climate assessment.

Four co-authors of the science assessment, who spoke to AP on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue, said they have not heard of or witnessed any attempt by the White House to suppress or censor the scientific document.

"It was under the radar and we were fine about that," one author told AP on Tuesday.

This story was reported by The Associated Press.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to US scientists continue to counter Trump's climate claims
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/2017/0809/US-scientists-continue-to-counter-Trump-s-climate-claims
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe