On Friday, the Trump administration released a new scientific report, which states it is “extremely likely” human activity, especially via carbon dioxide emissions, has been the “dominant” cause of global warming and there is “no convincing alternative explanation” that anything other than human activity is to blame.
“This report has some very powerful, hard-hitting statements that are totally at odds with senior administration folks and at odds with their policies,” Philip Duffy, president of the Woods Hole Research Center, told the New York Times. “It begs the question, where are members of the administration getting their information from? They’re obviously not getting it from their own scientists.”
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy signed off on the final release of the Climate Science Special Report, which is mandated by law. Under the Global Change Research Act, which was signed by former President George H.W. Bush, Congress is required to release a report every four years in order to “assist the Nation and the world to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.”
The report was written by over 50 government scientists from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and was peer-reviewed by the National Academy of Sciences and 13 federal agencies.
While scientists say the Trump administration did not change any of the scientific conclusions in the report, there were some changes made to policy issues that referred to the Paris climate agreement.
David Fahey, director of the Earth System Research Laboratory at the NOAA and a lead author of the study, said that he is “confident” there was no “political interference in the scientific messages” of the report.
“Whatever fears we had weren’t realized,” Fahey told the Washington Post. “This report says what the scientists want it to say.”
The Trump administration tried to downplay the report Friday, with White House spokesman Raj Shah releasing a statement that said: “the climate has changed and is always changing.”
“As the Climate Science Special Report states, the magnitude of future climate change depends significantly on ‘remaining uncertainty in the sensitivity of Earth’s climate to [greenhouse gas] emissions,'” Shah said, according to the Washington Post. “In the United States, energy related carbon dioxide emissions have been declining, are expected to remain flat through 2040, and will also continue to decline as a share of world emissions.”
Shah added that the Trump administration “supports rigorous scientific analysis and debate.”
However, since taking office, Trump has sought to undo policies addressing climate change and appointed officials with similar ideas to top positions in his administration.
When Scott Pruitt, the current EPA chief, was the attorney general for Oklahoma, he sued the agency he’s now heading 14 times and lost nearly every case. Since being appointed to head the EPA, Pruitt has said that carbon dioxide is not the “primary contributor” to climate change and ordered data on climate change to be removed from the agency’s website.
This week, Energy Secretary Rick Perry also said that “the science is out” on whether humans caused climate change and implied that expanding exports of fossil fuels would “play a positive role” in preventing sexual assault in Africa.
Trump himself has also refuted the science behind climate change, going so far as to say it is a “hoax,” which was “created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”
In June, Trump announced the US would withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change, making the US the only country other than Syria to not sign the pact. The US is expected to be criticized for the move next week during the United Nations annual climate change conference in Bonn, Germany.
According to the report released Friday, carbon dioxide levels have passed 400 parts per million for the first time in 3 million years, which has caused global temperatures to increase by about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit since 1901 and sea levels to rise about 7 inches over the same period.
The report predicts that as temperatures continue to rise, there will be more frequent and intense heatwaves, forest fires, droughts, and sea levels could rise by as much as eight feet by the year 2100.
“The frequency and intensity of extreme high-temperature events are virtually certain to increase in the future as global temperature increases,” the report states. “Extreme precipitation events will very likely continue to increase in frequency and intensity throughout most of the world.”
One of the most alarming predictions in the report states that climate change could be accelerated to such an extent that the entire climate system reaches a tipping point and the earth would enter into “new states that are very different from those experienced in the recent past.”
“The probability of such surprises - some of which may be abrupt and/or irreversible - as well as other more predictable but difficult-to-manage impacts, increases as the influence of human activities on the climate system increases,” the report states.
However, the report says that with “significant reduction in emissions,” the increase in annual temperatures could be limited to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit or less.