climate change

The Trump administrations scientists: climate change a real and present danger



Over the last 50 years, Alaska’s Sawyer Glacier has retreated around 2-3 kilometres. Photo credit: Ian D. Keating via Flickr.


By Anders Lorenzen 

The New York Times, that would be the failing New York Times if you were to ask US President Donald Trump, have published a leaked draft of a US government climate report awaiting approval by the Trump administration.

The report by scientists from 13 US government agencies, still in draft format, set out that Americans are feeling the impacts of climate change. The National Academy of Sciences has already signed off on the report and the last remaining hurdle before the document can be released is for Trump to sign off on it himself.

Report contradicts the direction of the Trump administration

But there are fears as to whether the Trump is likely to do so, as the report starkly contradicts the US President and many of the administration’s cabinet members who believe that the effects and reality of climate change are uncertain. One of the most notable figures being the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt.

The report notes: “The last few years have seen record-breaking, climate-related weather extremes, the three warmest years on record for the globe, and continued decline in Arctic sea ice. These trends are expected to continue in the future over climate (multidecadal) timescales. Significant advances have also been made in our understanding of extreme weather events and how they relate to increasing global temperatures and associated climate changes. Since 1980, the cost of extreme events for the United States has exceeded $1.1 trillion, therefore better understanding of the frequency and severity of these events in the context of a changing climate is warranted.”

Climate change impacts accelerate across the US

The reports set out that in the US, along with the rest of the planet, temperatures are continuing to rise. And in the US alone during the period 1986 – 2016 the average annual temperature increased by 0.7 C compared with the period of 1901 – 1960, and during 1901 – 2016 by 1.0 C. The future projections are that temperatures will continue to rise.

It also details how urban living in US cities will become more uncomfortable as the continent continues to warm. Their assessment is that the urban heat island effect, which is an urban or metropolitan area that is warmer than its surroundings, is going to intensify. The authors detail that the effect will strengthen in the future, while urban populations will increase.

US extreme weather events to intensify

And what is a trend across the globe is, of course, a reality for the US too: that of increasingly frequent and powerful extreme weather events which many Americans have grown accustomed to over recent years and decades. The report states that some weather extremes in the US has already become more normalised, frequent and intense and will occur over prolonged periods. The impacts are expected to at least continue, or even worsen. These events will affect water quality and its availability, agricultural productivity, human health, infrastructure, ecosystems and species and perhaps most importantly the likelihood of disasters.

Many Americans are becoming increasingly worried about coastal flooding – and for good reason. The report estimates that the amount of tidal floods that cause minor impacts have increased 5 to 10-fold since the 1960’s in several US coastal cities. And rates of increase are accelerating in over 25 Atlantic and Gulf coast cities. The report states that the future projections are that tidal flooding will continue to increase in depth, frequency, and extent this century. The authors also believe that sea level rises will increase the frequency and extent of extreme flooding associated with coastal storms.

And the authors highlight that the warming in the Alaskan and the rest of the Arctic will continue to outpace global climate change. In Alaska, the effects will be seen in the shape of crumbling buildings, roads, bridges and eroding shorelines.

Report could be suppressed

One government scientist who worked on the report called the conclusions in the report amongst the most comprehensive to be published in a science report, leading to others fearing it would be suppressed by the government.

It is likely that the Trump administration will be uncomfortable by the conclusions in the report which says that to keep the climate breakdown below 2 C will require major reductions in emissions. This is at odds with the current direction the Trump administration is taking.

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