The Trump Administration released its National Climate Assessment (NCA) last Friday. This is the work product of the science agencies of our country, and reflects the best scientific thinking we have to offer on the impacts of climate change over the next several decades. Here are the findings in a nutshell:
- Climate change is real.
- Science has determined the cause of climate change. It is almost 100% due to human activity.
- We can see the impacts today. They are here, and they are accelerating.
- Over the next several decades climate change will cause substantial damage to the US economy, human health and the environment
- The situation is not hopeless. By acting now, and acting forcefully, we can still avoid the most serious and dangerous impacts.
- It’s up to us. We hold our fate in our hands.
The findings are completely consistent with the Montana Climate Assessment, the work of 32 Montana scientists from the public and private sector, published last year.
The Administration tried to bury the report by releasing it the day after Thanksgiving, and has since jumped on the climate denial bandwagon to minimize and discredit the outcome.
It starts with the President saying he just doesn’t believe what the report has to say.
The report is science. It is not a matter of belief. No credible climate scientists dispute the findings of the report. As climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe says, “You can say, ‘I don’t believe in gravity,’ but if you step off a cliff you’re going down.” By using his bully pulpit to discredit the report without reason, the President is the main impediment to solving the problem.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders
The Administration sent out Sarah Huckabee Sanders to discredit their own report. She claimed the report is not based data driven, and is based on “the most extreme scenario.”
This is simply not true. The report considered multiple scenarios, from one in which emissions are reduced to one where emissions continue to increase. And the notion that the modeling in the report is not data driven is ridiculous. From the report:
Administration spokespeople like Rick Santorum and Tom Delay littered the cable TV news channels, claiming that climate scientists are only coming up with these conclusions to line their own pockets with grant money. This is nonsense. According to the New York Times,
At Pennsylvania State University, professors in the earth and mineral sciences department made an average salary of $157,773, which was below the university-wide average of $166,731. Professors in earth and environmental sciences earned $98,567 on average at Iowa State University, compared with the average salary of $134,039.
This argument makes no sense. The Climate Assessment agrees with research being done by the oil companies themselves. And can you imagine how many millions lobbying groups would pay a top climate scientist to deny the findings of this report? Climate scientists were paid nothing to contribute to this report.
You need to inform yourself
What is glaringly obvious is that nobody representing the Administration disputed factually any of the scientific findings in the report. You can allow yourself to be duped by the Administration, or you can find out for yourself. Failure to act is exactly what will lead us to the most disastrous scenario.
The NCA is a congressionally-mandated report released at least every four years on what the past, present, and future of climate change means for the United States. The report is produced by 13 federal agencies comprising the U.S. Global Change Research Program, a presidential initiative started by President Ronald Reagan and mandated by Congress in the Global Change Research Act of 1990. It is the best work we have to offer.
Here’s where to download the report. Downloads are available in manageable pieces.
And here, courtesy of Climate Nexus, are the key findings of the report:
- Human activity is the primary cause for the warming temperatures we are undoubtedly experiencing.
- If we act now to fight climate change, by the end of this century we will save hundreds of billions of dollars just in public health costs, and save thousands of lives a year.
- The cost of climate change right now is substantial. We are paying billions of dollars for the damage caused by worsening storms, more deadly heat waves, more frequent wildfires, and the worsening spread of allergies and disease.
- Americans are already planning and adapting. The US military, farmers, businesses, and local communities are all in action.
- The bottom line is that climate change is a clear and present danger to the health and wealth of the American people.
Topline findings of the report:
- Human activity, primarily burning fossil fuels, is causing climate change. There is no credible alternative to global warming emissions to explain the warming.
- Global average temperatures have risen 1.8°F (1.0°C) since 1901, predominantly because of human activity, especially the emission of heat-trapping gases.
- Globally, 16 of the last 17 years are the warmest years on record.
- Depending on the region, Americans could experience an additional month to two month’s worth of days with maximum temperatures above 100°F by 2050, with that severe heat becoming commonplace in the southeast by 2100.
2. Economic losses from climate change are significant for some sectors of the U.S. economy.
- In some sectors, losses driven by the impacts of climate change could exceed $100 billion annually by the end of the century.
- If we don’t reduce carbon emissions, extreme temperatures could end up costing billions upon billions in lost wages annually by the end of the century, and negatively impact the health of construction, agricultural and other outdoor workers.
- Many aspects of climate change – including extreme heat, droughts, and floods – will pose risks to the U.S. agricultural sector. In many places, including Montana, crop yields, as well as crop and grazing land quality, are expected to decline as a result.
- We may be underestimating our level of risk by failing to account for multiple impacts occurring at once, or not planning for impacts that will span across government borders and sector boundaries.
- Our aging infrastructure, especially our electric grid, will continue to be stressed by extreme weather events, which is why helping communities on the frontlines of climate impacts to adapt is so crucial.
3. Americans are already responding to the climate change impacts of burning fossil fuels.
- Increased global warming emissions have contributed to the observed increases in Atlantic hurricane activity since 1970.
- Climate change doubled the area burned by wildfires across the West between 1984 and 2015, relative to what would have burned without warming. Climate change was a greater factor in area burned between 1916 and 2003 than was fire suppression, fire management or non-climate factors.
- By 2100, annual acreage burned by wildfires could increase by as much as 6 times in some places. The U.S. spends an average of about $1 billion annually to fight wildfires, but spent over $2 billion in 2015 due to extreme drought. Costs exceeded $2 billion in the first 8 months of 2017.
- The U.S. military is already working to understand the increased risks of security issues resulting from climate change-induced resource shocks (droughts causing crop failure, for example, which can contribute to civil unrest) as well as extreme weather events and direct impacts on military infrastructure, like sea level rise or extreme heat at military bases.
4. Storm surge and tidal flooding frequency, depth and extent are worsened by sea level rise, presenting a significant risk to America’s trillion-dollar coastal property market.
- Global sea level has risen about 8-9 inches since 1880, 3 inches of which have come since just 1993. We can expect at least several inches more in the next 15 years, with 1-4 feet very likely by 2100, and as much as 8 feet physically possible by 2100.
- Sea level rise has already increased the frequency of high tide flooding by a factor of 5 to 10 since the 1960s for some US coastal communities.
- Climate change is already hurting coastal ecosystems, posing a threat to the fisheries and tourism industries as well as public safety and human health. Continuing coastal impacts will worsen pre-existing social inequities as vulnerable communities reckon with how to adapt.
5. Every American’s health is at risk from climate change, with the elderly, young, working class and communities of color being particularly vulnerable.
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions will, by the end of the century, potentially save thousands of lives annually, and generate hundreds of billions of dollars of health-related economic benefits compared to a high emissions scenario.
- Allergies like hay fever and asthma are likely already becoming more frequent and severe.
- Warmer temperatures are expected to alter the range of mosquitoes and ticks that carry vector-borne diseases like Zika, West Nile virus, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.
- Drier conditions in Arizona and California have led to greater growth of the fungus that leads to Valley Fever (coccidioidomycosis) while Cryptococcal infections were strictly tropical before 1999, but have moved northward, with Oregon experiencing 76 cases in 2015.
- West Nile is projected to double by 2050, with a $1 billion annual price tag.
6. We can do something about this. Transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources will reduce the risks of climate impacts.
- A certain amount of warming is likely “locked in” so adaptation is still required.
- The faster we reduce global warming emissions, the less risk we face and the cheaper it will be to adapt.