The Cli­mate-change Re­port Trump Did Not Want You to See

Trillions - - In This Issue -

A re­port from the fed­eral Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee for the Sus­tained Na­tional Cli­mate As­sess­ment is be­ing leaked now in draft form, de­spite what the White House and Trump’s min­ions would like to have hap­pen.

The fi­nal ver­sion of the re­port is still ap­par­ently coming out on sched­ule at the end of Septem­ber. This is de­spite yet an­other move by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to cur­tail its po­ten­tial im­pact. That move was to dis­miss the ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee on cli­mate change, which de­vel­oped the re­port, ef­fec­tive Au­gust 20, 2017. Per­haps to min­i­mize the group’s abil­ity to re­veal any fur­ther in­for­ma­tion from their stud­ies to the pub­lic, the White House in­formed the com­mit­tee that it was be­ing sent home only two days be­fore­hand, on Au­gust 18.

The re­port that was leaked was a third in­terim draft of what will be­come known as the Na­tional Cli­mate As­sess­ment 4, the first since the group’s May 2014 Na­tional Cli­mate As­sess­ment. It is im­por­tant not just for its find­ings but also be­cause of what the com­mit­tee does, which is to in­ter­pret the com­plex sets of in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing cli­mate change for those mak­ing de­ci­sions in the gov­ern­ment on things like land use and in­fra­struc­ture.

While the re­port is some­what con­ser­va­tive and holds back on some im­por­tant points, it is es­pe­cially im­por­tant now, in view of how global cli­mate changes seem to be ac­cel­er­at­ing in al­most quan­tum rather than just small steps. In Au­gust, for ex­am­ple, tem­per­a­tures in South Australia and the Arc­tic were more than 50˚F (10˚C) above nor­mal. This comes on the heels of the same re­gions of South Australia and the Arc­tic hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced high tem­per­a­tures of 99˚F (37˚C) through­out Au­gust, which is their WIN­TER. The south­ern parts of the globe were not the only prob­lem ar­eas, as heat waves spread across the en­tire globe from late May through Au­gust. Be­fore that, places like Kansas, which used to be cov­ered in snow through late March, hit a high tem­per­a­ture of 90˚F (32˚C) in Fe­bru­ary this year.

Ma­jor Find­ings Re­leased in the Draft Re­port

The draft re­port kicks off its sum­maries with a strong mes­sage. It be­gins by not­ing that “since the last Na­tional Cli­mate As­sess­ment was pub­lished, 2014 be­came the warm­est year on record at that time; 2015 sur­passed 2014 by a wide mar­gin; and 2016 is ex­pected to sur­pass 2015. Fif­teen of the last 16 years are the warm­est years on record for the globe.”

As to why that is hap­pen­ing, in sup­port of what the vast ma­jor­ity of cli­mate stud­ies have said yet also in di­rect con­tra­dic­tion to what Pres­i­dent Trump and EPA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Scott Pruitt main­tain, the re­port says: “Many lines of ev­i­dence demon­strate that hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties, es­pe­cially emis­sions of green­house gases, are pri­mar­ily re­spon­si­ble for ob­served cli­mate changes in the in­dus­trial era. There are no al­ter­na­tive ex­pla­na­tions, and no nat­u­ral cy­cles are found in the ob­ser­va­tional record that can ex­plain the ob­served changes in cli­mate.” [Em­pha­sis added.]

The doc­u­ment also points out that the im­pacts of cli­mate change have not been uni­form, ei­ther on the en­tire planet or in the United States in par­tic­u­lar. As it notes, “For the con­tigu­ous United States, the largest tem­per­a­ture changes (from the av­er­age tem­per­a­ture in the early 1900s com­pared to the av­er­age of the last 30 years) have oc­curred in the western United States, where av­er­age tem­per­a­tures in­creased by more than 1.5˚F (0.8˚C) across the North­west and South­west and

in the North­ern Great Plains.” This spe­cific con­clu­sion sug­gests that some of the big­gest and most im­por­tant of Amer­ica’s farm­lands may be hit harder and faster by the im­pact of cli­mate change. It also raises ma­jor po­ten­tial con­cerns for pub­lic pol­icy, which must con­sider the im­pact of this both on the econ­omy as well as food se­cu­rity within the United States.

This is also go­ing to get much worse, fast, ac­cord­ing to the re­port’s au­thors, with “near-term in­creases of at least 2.5˚F (1.4˚C) in just the next few decades,” even with ma­jor re­duc­tions in emis­sions in place. If lower emis­sions were to be­come the norm, the au­thors say the coun­try would still be stuck with tem­per­a­ture in­creases of up to 5˚F (2.8˚C) by the lat­ter part of the cen­tury. If higher emis­sions were to be­come the norm, ac­cord­ing to the re­port, U.S. tem­per­a­tures could rise by up to 8.7˚F (4.8˚C) long be­fore the year 2100.

That last cal­cu­la­tion rep­re­sents a ma­jor wake-up call for the United States and its cit­i­zens, who have been lied to about cli­mate change for more than 20 years. That 8.7˚F (4.8˚C) in­crease we can ex­pect is far greater than the Paris Cli­mate Agree­ment tar­get to at­tempt to hold av­er­age tem­per­a­ture in­creases to only 3.6˚F (2˚C). It is also a num­ber that is far more likely to hap­pen un­der a sce­nario with the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion in charge, as the Obama-era fos­sil fuel emis­sions re­stric­tions are be­ing rapidly rolled back. Sadly, even if some­how san­ity takes the helm and emis­sions are re­duced, the United States will still be hit with tem­per­a­ture in­creases pro­jected to blow through the Paris Cli­mate Agree­ment num­bers dis­turbingly eas­ily.

With th­ese tem­per­a­tures ratch­et­ing up much faster than the pub­lic would have ex­pected, the re­port out­lines many of the con­se­quences the coun­try may soon ex­pe­ri­ence. Th­ese in­clude the fol­low­ing:

A greater in­crease in “heavy pre­cip­i­ta­tion events” across the coun­try. The most se­vere are ex­pected to hit within the North­east­ern United States, from West Vir­ginia and Vir­ginia up­ward and north­east­erly up through Maine, a re­gion that has already logged a 17% in­crease dur­ing the 1981-2015 pe­riod com­pared to the 1901-1960 pe­riod pre­dat­ing most of the last cen­tury’s ma­jor in­dus­tri­ally driven global warming cy­cles. Next in the se­quence is the Cen­tral States re­gion, bounded by Ohio on the east and Mis­souri on the west, and up­ward to Min­nesota and over to Michi­gan. That re­gion recorded a +9% in­crease in rain­fall dur­ing the same pe­riod. The south­ern states are next, with ap­prox­i­mately +8% in­creases, fol­lowed by +6% in the moun­tain states, +3% in the Pa­cific North­west and, fi­nally, vir­tu­ally un­changed at +1% in the re­gion en­com­pass­ing Cal­i­for­nia, Ne­vada, Utah, Colorado, New Mex­ico and Ari­zona.

Sea level rise is the next ma­jor area of con­cern, with the re­port’s writ­ers pre­dict­ing that the global mean sea level (GMSL) is ex­pected to rise be­tween 0.3 and 0.6 feet (0.09 and 0.18 me­ters) by 2030, be­tween 0.5 and 1.2 feet (0.15 and 0.37 me­ters) by 2050 and be­tween one and four feet (0.30 and 1.22 me­ters) by 2100. Ex­pect much global coastal flood­ing to oc­cur, sim­i­lar to what is already be­gin­ning to be seen along the cen­tral east­ern seaboard of the United States. Data already shows that tidal flood­ing has in­creased by five to 10 times since the 1960s.

The oceans them­selves are suf­fer­ing from the im­pact of pol­lu­tion in other ways, ac­cord­ing to the re­port. They pre­vi­ously ab­sorbed about 25% of the CO2 dumped an­nu­ally into the at­mos­phere from hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties, which has made them more acidic. The com­bi­na­tion of warmer wa­ters and in­creased acid­ity is mak­ing life toxic for many marine ecosys­tems. It is killing off many of those ecosys­tems, bleach­ing co­ral reefs and forc­ing the marine crea­tures that can mi­grate into cooler wa­ters. Un­for­tu­nately for them, how­ever, es­cap­ing the heat may not bring them the food sources they also need to sur­vive, so it may only be a mat­ter of time af­ter they get on the move be­fore they, too, be­gin to die off in large num­bers. That ocean acid­i­fi­ca­tion, the re­port goes on to say, “is un­par­al­leled in at least the past 66 mil­lion years” and is “re­gion­ally higher along U.S.

coastal sys­tems as a re­sult of changes in sea­sonal up­welling (for ex­am­ple, in the Pa­cific North­west and Alaska), changes in fresh­wa­ter in­puts (for ex­am­ple, the Gulf of Maine) and nu­tri­ent in­put (for ex­am­ple, ur­ban­ized es­tu­ar­ies).”

The cli­mate-driven in­crease in ocean tem­per­a­tures that is also hap­pen­ing has the dis­as­trous side ef­fect of caus­ing a bleed-out of the amount of oxy­gen present in the wa­ters. The re­port pre­dicts that by 2100 “global-av­er­age ocean-oxy­gen lev­els are pro­jected to de­crease from cur­rent lev­els by 2% to 4% rel­a­tive to cur­rent lev­els for a range of sce­nar­ios.”

Cli­mate change is show­ing its ef­fects faster in Alaska and across the Arc­tic than in other ar­eas. This is caus­ing “ac­cel­er­at­ing melt­ing of mul­ti­year sea ice cover, mass loss from the Green­land Ice Sheet, re­duced snow cover and per­mafrost thaw­ing.” As the per­mafrost it­self dis­in­te­grates, there are also ma­jor jumps in the amount of “car­bon diox­ide and meth­ane [re­leased] from the de­com­po­si­tion of frozen or­ganic mat­ter.” As that hits the at­mos­phere in large bursts, it will cre­ate a com­pound­ing ef­fect in the long-term tem­per­a­ture in­creases around the globe, which will then cause more melt­ing and more per­mafrost to dis­ap­pear for­ever from the face of the Earth.

The re­port puts its fi­nal “nails in the cof­fin” for the globe by stat­ing that “at­mo­spheric CO2 lev­els have now passed 400 ppm, last seen dur­ing the Pliocene [pe­riod], ap­prox­i­mately three mil­lion years ago, when global tem­per­a­tures were 3.6˚ to 6.3˚F (2˚ to 3.5˚C) higher than prein­dus­trial [times] and sea lev­els were 66 +/– 33 feet (20 +/– 10 me­ters) higher than to­day.”

No Won­der Trump’s Team Did Not Want You to See This

It is clear both from this care­ful out­lay of the facts of the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion as well as the pre­dic­tions in­cluded in this draft re­port that while cli­mate change may not ex­ist in the minds of Don­ald Trump and his sup­port­ers, it re­ally is hap­pen­ing else­where and most of hu­man­ity will not be able to avoid notic­ing it.

With the sci­en­tists who put to­gether the re­port pre­dict­ing much higher tem­per­a­tures than most cit­i­zens knew about, with more rain, con­sid­er­ably higher sea lev­els and acid­i­fied, oxy­gen-starved oceans, it is no big sur­prise that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion would have been wor­ried about the in­for­ma­tion con­tained in the re­port get­ting out. The re­sult­ing pos­si­bil­ity of ma­jor damage to the United States’ food pro­duc­tion ca­pa­bil­ity – not to men­tion damage from mega-storms caus­ing ma­jor de­struc­tion with flood­ing and wind and the rapid death of species both on the land and in the oceans – is in­deed fright­en­ing.

Yet it is for pre­cisely those rea­sons that such a re­port not only needs to be seen but needs to be re­viewed, checked and used as a guide for both pub­lic pol­icy and plan­ning to pro­tect as much as pos­si­ble of the United States’ – and the rest of the Earth’s – in­hab­i­tants, from hu­mans to all an­i­mals, birds, bugs, plants and sea crea­tures.

It is im­por­tant to re­mem­ber, as one con­sid­ers the im­pli­ca­tions of all this, that what th­ese notes cover was sim­ply a draft in­tended for re­view. We urge all con­cerned fel­low trav­el­ers of Planet Earth to get their hands on the fi­nal ver­sion when it (hope­fully) goes to print and elec­tronic dis­tri­bu­tion in late Septem­ber 2017.

For those who can­not wait for that, the draft ver­sion of the cli­mate change re­port is avail­able for down­load here. It is very pos­si­ble that it will be re­moved in the near fu­ture.

Photo by Ian D. Keat­ing, CC

Im­age by Chris, CC

Im­age by ale­bar­beito, CC

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