A major scientific report has just been published that concludes that the climate is warming, that it is affecting the lives of everyday Americans, and that humans are the driving cause of it. This is well known by now, of course – but what’s strange about this particular report is that the Trump administration released it.
Agreeing with a plethora of international climate studies that acknowledge that temperatures have risen by 1.0°C (1.8°F) since 1900, it notes that “this period is now the warmest in the history of modern civilization.”
“This assessment concludes, based on extensive evidence, that it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.
“For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence,” it concludes.
Everything else within the report is exactly what you’d expect to see. Sea levels are rising at unprecedented rates, and in the last few years, they’ve accelerated rapidly. Weather extremes are becoming more powerful and destructive; the last three years have been the warmest on record; the planet is now warming exponentially.
The last time the atmosphere contained this much carbon dioxide was 3 million years ago, but this time, we’re pumping it into the air at an unprecedented rate.
This report fits in perfectly with the overwhelming scientific consensus – so why did the current US government, one infamous for climate denial, release it?
This analysis is part of the National Climate Assessment (NCA), which was mandated by Congress back in 1990. Those behind it release a new updated version every few years, and the last came out in 2014.
The most significant section of the NCA is the Climate Science Special Report. Composed by researchers across 13 federal agencies, it’s the defining climate science document the US produces, one that is specifically designed to influence American policy.
It’s fair to say that the Trump administration – infamous for suppressing, defunding, and purging climatologists and their work – would not be pleased to have such a blunt, clear-cut climate science report released with its name attached to it. Despite some fears they would try to censor it, the report is legally required to be produced and published, and there is little anyone opposing it can do to stop this.
Although this report’s work began way before Trump took office, it’s technically true to say that the Trump administration released it, something that’s quite thoroughly ironic.
Unsurprisingly, though, the White House is already seeking to downplay it. In a statement, spokesperson Raj Shah said: “The climate has changed and is always changing.” He focused on the report’s use of the word “uncertainty”, but out of context.
Make no mistake: this report makes it very clear that humans are warming the climate. It specifically links human activities to the changing climate with the term “extremely likely” – something that denotes a greater than 95 percent probability.
Remember, this is only one part of the NCA. The rest is due to be published in 2018, which means another volley of inconvenient science is around the corner.
Will this or the next part of the report influence how the Trump administration behaves with regards to climate science? Of course it won’t – but it reminds the world that although the White House might have its head in the sand, American scientists are forging on, burying alternate facts underneath a mountain of truth.