De­niers use Black Fri­day to ob­scure scary re­port

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Opinion - By Fred Grimm

Black Fri­day was Bleak Fri­day for folks with real es­tate in­vest­ments in coastal Florida. Or any­one wor­ried about in­sect-borne dis­eases, su­per­storms, floods, droughts, heat waves, wild­fires, toxic al­gae, dy­ing coral reefs, col­laps­ing fish­eries, sea­sonal al­ler­gies, in­va­sive species, salt wa­ter seep­ing into the aquifer and freaked-out in­sur­ance com­pa­nies head­ing for the hills.

But you weren’t sup­posed to no­tice.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion clev­erly picked the af­ter­noon af­ter Thanks­giv­ing to re­lease the Na­tional Climate As­sess­ment, four years worth of peer-re­viewed work compiled by 13 U.S. gov­ern­ment agen­cies, in­clud­ing NASA, NOAA and the Depart­ment of De­fense.

The find­ings were not happy. The 1,656-page fed­eral re­port warns that warmer global tem­per­a­tures will as­suredly wreck our econ­omy, our health, flood our coastal cities and make life un­ten­able in Florida cities like Fort Laud­erdale, Mi­ami, Tampa. (So long, Apalachicola.) “The im­pacts of climate change are in­ten­si­fy­ing across the coun­try and climate-re­lated threats to Amer­i­cans’ phys­i­cal, so­cial, and eco­nomic well-be­ing are ris­ing.”

Not quite the news that climate-change­deny­ing po­lit­i­cal ap­pointees in the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion wish to dis­sem­i­nate. The as­sess­ment may rep­re­sent the in­formed pre­dic­tions of 300 gov­ern­ment sci­en­tists, but it de­fies as­ser­tions by their very boss, Pres­i­dent T as he now calls him­self, that global warm­ing is a hoax con­cocted by the Chi­nese. Or that coal burns clean. Or that climate sci­en­tists are in some kind of world­wide con­spir­acy to sab­o­tage the fos­sil fuel in­dus­try. Or that they take money to lie – thou­sands of them on the take. As if the en­tire genre lacks the ethics and hon­esty so nobly demon­strated by Pres­i­dent Trump.

Tour­ing a com­mu­nity de­stroyed by wild­fire in a drought-stricken Cal­i­for­nia com­mu­nity on Nov. 13, Trump was able to re­ject the gray, ashy ev­i­dence of global warm­ing be­neath his very feet. He called the state of the en­vi­ron­ment, un­der his di­rec­tion, “great.” Not likely that such de­luded think­ing would be al­tered by a re­port far heftier than his at­ten­tion span.

So how does the White House deal with four years of in­ter-agency re­search that flatly con­tra­dicts the Pres­i­dent? By is­su­ing the un­seemly as­sess­ment on Black Fri­day. Gov­ern­ment agen­cies fa­mously re­lease – the proper verb is “dump” – unwelcomed doc­u­ments on Fri­day af­ter­noons, hop­ing re­porters and their read­ers are dis­tracted by the com­ing week­end. The West Wing tele­vi­sion se­ries fea­tured an episode on Jan. 26, 2000 about why bu­reau­cra­cies dub Fri­day “take out the trash day.”

The Na­tional Climate As­sess­ment was orig­i­nally sched­uled to be re­leased at the Amer­i­can Geo­phys­i­cal Union’s an­nual con­fer­ence in Wash­ing­ton next week. In­stead, the ad­min­is­tra­tion “took out the trash” on the Fri­day that also hap­pened to be the busiest shop­ping day of the year.

It was ob­vi­ous, from the sum­mary on, why Trump’s anti-sci­ence syco­phants would rather the pub­lic think about depart­ment store dis­counts than a fast-com­ing, man-made en­vi­ron­men­tal catas­tro­phe. “Ob­ser­va­tions col­lected around the world pro­vide sig­nif­i­cant, clear, and com­pelling ev­i­dence that the global av­er­age tem­per­a­ture is much higher, and is ris­ing more rapidly, than any­thing mod­ern civ­i­liza­tion has ex­pe­ri­enced, with wide­spread and growing im­pacts,” the re­port says. “The warm­ing trend ob­served over the past cen­tury can only be ex­plained by the ef­fects that hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties, es­pe­cially emis­sions of green­house gases, have had on the climate.”

The White House might have rewrit­ten or out­right spiked the re­port ex­cept Con­gress passed a law in 1990 — with­out a sin­gle dis­sent­ing vote in the Se­nate —re­quir­ing fed­eral agen­cies to pre­pare an ex­ten­sive re­port on the ef­fects of climate change ev­ery four years.

This lat­est as­sess­ment cited over­whelm­ing ev­i­dence that climate change would have a dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect on the econ­omy. (Per­haps the au­thors fig­ured that the dun­der­heads in Wash­ing­ton would be more both­ered by the prospect of shrink­ing in­vest­ments than melt­ing ice­caps or dy­ing coral reefs.) South Florida was seen as par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble to the eco­nomic dam­age of climate change, par­tic­u­larly by sea level rise. “The po­ten­tial need for mil­lions of peo­ple and bil­lions of dol­lars of coastal in­fra­struc­ture to be re­lo­cated in the fu­ture cre­ates chal­leng­ing le­gal, fi­nan­cial, and eq­uity is­sues that have not yet been ad­dressed,” the re­port warns. Bil­lions of dol­lars’ worth of Florida real es­tate will be “be­low av­er­age sea level by 2100.”

South Florida will also be deal­ing with other un­pleas­antries, such as stronger hur­ri­canes and out­breaks of mos­quito-borne trop­i­cal dis­ease like Zika and dengue fever that flour­ish in hot­house cli­mates.

But even as gov­ern­ment sci­en­tists tal­lied the bil­lions in eco­nomic losses if we fail to stanch climate change, the pres­i­dent was hav­ing none of it. He pays fed­eral sci­en­tists no more heed than he does CIA an­a­lysts. “I don’t be­lieve it,” Trump said when he was asked about the re­port’s eco­nomic prophe­cies. “No, no, I don’t be­lieve it.” Trump, in­stead, has con­verted the U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency into a mis­nomer, or­der­ing the agency to roll back reg­u­la­tions re­strict­ing green­house gas emis­sions from au­to­mo­biles and power plants.

To be fair, the pres­i­dent might have sim­ply missed the Na­tional Climate As­sess­ment, thick as it was. Af­ter all, it came out on Black Fri­day. Maybe he was busy with his Christ­mas shop­ping.

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