Draft U.S. re­port says ex­treme storms driven by cli­mate change

Austin American-Statesman - - STATESMAN AT THE LEGISLATURE - By Michael Biesecker and Seth Borenstein

Di­rectly con­tra­dict­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, a draft re­port pro­duced by 13 fed­eral agen­cies con­cludes that the United States is al­ready feel­ing the neg­a­tive im­pacts of cli­mate change, with a stark in­crease in the fre­quency of heat waves, heavy rains and other ex­treme weather over the past four decades.

The pre­lim­i­nary re­port sum­ma­rizes the cur­rent state of the sci­ence for the up­com­ing Na­tional Cli­mate As­sess­ment. Trump and his Cab­i­net have ex­pressed pub­lic doubts that the warm­ing is be­ing pri­mar­ily driven by man-made car­bon pol­lu­tion and will have se­ri­ous con­se­quences for Amer­i­cans.

An early ver­sion of the re­port, a copy of which was ob­tained by The Associated Press, was dis­trib­uted widely in De­cem­ber for re­view by lead­ing sci­en­tists. The New York Times pub­lished a copy Mon­day.

The U.S. Global Change Re­search Pro­gram, which will edit and pro­duce the fi­nal re­port, did not re­spond to phone and emails seek­ing com­ment on Tues­day.

The as­sess­ment has gen­er­ally been re­leased ev­ery four years un­der a fed­eral ini­tia­tive man­dated by Congress in 1990. The cur­rent draft, tar­geted for re­lease later this year, largely builds on the con­clu­sions of the 2014 as­sess­ment re­leased un­der the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The as­sess­ment said global tem­per­a­tures will con­tinue to rise with­out steep re­duc­tions in the burn­ing of fos­sil fu­els, with in­creas­ingly neg­a­tive im­pacts. World­wide, 15 of the last 16 years have been the warmest years on record. To­day, the Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion said 2017 is on track to be the sec­ond warmest for the United States.

The re­port calls the longterm ev­i­dence that global warm­ing is be­ing driven by hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties “un­am­bigu­ous.”

“There are no al­ter­na­tive ex­pla­na­tions, and no nat­u­ral cy­cles are found in the ob­ser­va­tional record that can ex­plain the ob­served changes in cli­mate,” the re­port said, cit­ing thou­sands of stud­ies. “Ev­i­dence for a changing cli­mate abounds, from the top of the at­mos­phere to the depths of the oceans.”

Sci­en­tists from all over the world have doc­u­mented warm­ing in the air and water, melt­ing glaciers, dis­ap­pear­ing snow, shrink­ing sea ice and ris­ing sea level.

The re­port said the United States will see tem­per­a­ture in­creases of at least 2.5 de­grees over the next few decades, even with sig­nif­i­cant cuts to car­bon pol­lu­tion.

Even if hu­mans stop spew­ing heat-trap­ping gases to­day, the world will warm an­other half a de­gree over to­day’s tem­per­a­tures, the re­port said, cit­ing high con­fi­dence in those cal­cu­la­tions.

Sci­en­tists, such as Stan­ford Univer­sity’s Chris Field, say that even a few tenths of a de­gree of warm­ing can have dra­matic im­pacts on hu­man civ­i­liza­tion and the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment.

“Ev­ery in­cre­ment in warm­ing is an in­cre­ment in risk,” said Field, who wasn’t part of the re­port but re­viewed it for The Na­tional Academy of Sciences.

Trump, who has called cli­mate change a “total con job” and “hoax” per­pe­trated to harm U.S. eco­nomic com­pet­i­tive­ness, has spear­headed a whole­sale scrap­ping of Obama-era ini­tia­tives that sought to re­duce car­bon emis­sions from coal­fired power plants and other sources. Last week, Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion for­mally told the United Na­tions that the U.S. in­tends to pull out of the 2015 Paris cli­mate ac­cord, in which nearly 200 na­tions pledged to re­duce car­bon emis­sions.

U.S. cli­mate sci­en­tists have watched th­ese pol­icy de­vel­op­ments with in­creas­ing alarm, with some ex­press­ing con­cern the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion might seek to bury or sig­nif­i­cantly water down the qua­dren­nial cli­mate as­sess­ment.

How­ever, four co-au­thors of the fed­eral cli­mate as­sess­ment, who spoke to AP on the con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause they were not au­tho­rized to discuss the is­sue, said they have not heard of or wit­nessed any at­tempt by the White House to sup­press or cen­sor the sci­en­tific doc­u­ment.

LYNNE SLADKY / ASSOCIATED PRESS 2014

Ve­hi­cles ne­go­ti­ate heav­ily flooded streets as rain falls in Mi­ami Beach, Fla. Cer­tain neigh­bor­hoods reg­u­larly ex­pe­ri­ence flood­ing dur­ing heavy rains and ex­treme high tides.

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