Scientists From 13 Federal Agencies Come Together to Contradict Trump Administration

Upon taking office, President Trump installed individuals to head most every cabinet position who either outright denies the existence of climate change or declines to advocate in favor of action to protect our nation from the harm climatologist around the world have documented is settling in upon us. Indeed, Trump put Scott Pruitt in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt is now working at a frantic pace to suppress evidence of climate change, ignoring agency scientists, preventing them from speaking at conferences, issuing orders to rewrite regulations, and endeavoring to appoint individuals generally acknowledged as lacking appropriate scientific credentials merely because they will support his views. 


     Now, however, in a startling oversight by Trump Administration, scientists from 13 federal agencies tasked by law with tracking climate change have just released a nearly 500-page report documenting the immense dangers facing the United States. Entitled, Climate Science Special Report, Fourth National Climate Assessment, prepared by the U.S. Global Change Research Program (a combination of scientists from 13 federal agencies), the report implements requirements imposed in 1990 by Congress via the U.S. Global Change Research Act. In extraordinary detail, the report eviscerates the position of the Trump Administration that immediate and sustained action is not needed. The report confirms that the dangers facing the United States are grave and certain to get much worse in the near future. It determines that if the United States and other industrial nations do not dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions to near zero within the next fifteen years, the most serious adverse consequences will be impossible to avoid, even if later generations act forcefully. 


     Playing catch-up after the report was released, Trump spokespeople have begun to employ the Administration’s usual attacks on climate change announcements by asserting: (1) this is fake news; (2) the climate is always changing; and (3) the scientists who wrote the report are Obama Administration holdovers. However, Trump’s climate spokespeople face objectively greater challenges in advancing these previously used canards. First, the report is not an account by news organizations. It is available for all to read, including a 36 page executive summary that synthesizes its findings. Second, while the climate does change over time, those changes are in geologic time frames; that is, occurring slowly over the course of millennia. In comparison, the changes documented by the report reflect time frames that are nearly instantaneous by the geologic standards upon which Earth operates. Indeed, the report documents exactly how and why causes for the observed changes – other than human greenhouse gas emissions – must be discounted and are done so in the report “with extremely high confidence” in the reliability of the scientific evidence. Third, the majority of individuals responsible for the report are senior scientists who have served in multiple Republican and Democratic administrations. Their scientific conclusions have not vacillated depending on which party occupies the White House.  


     Moreover, the veracity of the report gains immense credibility because it has been peer reviewed by the National Academy of Sciences, our nation’s oldest and most respected scientific organization. In verifying the accuracy of this report, the Academy has deemed it the “definitive” study on the impacts of climate change upon the United States. The study is further consistent with a worldwide analysis prepared by the (Nobel Prize winning) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is comprised of leading scientists from around the world, including oil rich countries with a financial stake in continuing to promoting fossil fuels. 


    Among other findings, the report highlights:


*The United States, together with other nations around the world, have approximately 15 years to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions or global temperatures will exceed the 2 degree Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) increase from pre-industrial times after which dramatic adverse impacts will not be able to be reversed. 

*Fossil fuels, including coal and oil, are the major source of carbon pollution that must be greatly reduced or eliminated.

*Ocean levels have risen quickly during the past several decades, and the pace of continued rises is increasing. 

*Flooding of low-lying coastal areas, including in major United States cities, is expected; nuisance flooding during periods of high tides is already common in some southeastern cities, Miami and Virginia Beach most notably.

*Deadly diseases previously limited to tropical nations have begun to appear in the United States, and the extent of their presence is expected to increase.

*Major agriculture areas of the United States will be increasingly imperiled by drought.

*The severity and frequency of extreme weather events has risen, and the pace of this trend is expected to increase.

*Extreme weather events around the globe have already cost in excess of 1.2 trillion; far greater costs are expected within the next several decades. 

*The future inundation of costal cities around the globe is reasonably expected to result in migration of millions of people to new areas already occupied by others, thus leading to extensive civil unrest or wars. 

*The melting of permafrost within artic regions is expected to release immense quantities of methane, a most potent greenhouse gas, resulting in further warming of the planet.

*The predicted melting of artic ice will expose cold waters there to sunlight that will significantly increase ocean temperature.

* The melting of Greenland and/or Antartic ice will cause dramatic increases in sea level all around the planet.

*The ocean is absorbing the majority of heat increases, adversely affecting fish populations relied upon humans. The oceans are becoming significantly more acidic, also adversely affecting fish populations. 


     By deciding to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Change Accords, the Trump Administration joins exactly one other country on the planet: Syria. No other country has either failed to join the Paris Accords or announced its intention to abandon them. 


(Craig Benedict, a retired Department of Justice prosecutor who specialized in environmental litigation, wrote this article.)