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