The Trump administration surprised some climate scientists last week, when it did nothing to stand in the way of the release of the National Climate Assessment, which concludes that climate change is a direct result of human activities. According to the report, detailed by the Washington Post:
“It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence.”
These conclusions do not align with Trump administration policies, which have largely dismissed the link between climate change and human activities since the start of the industrial era. Most prominently, the administration announced in June that it plans to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord, which would leave the US and Syria as the only nations to abstain from the agreement.
The document anticipates a possible rise in sea levels of as much as eight feet by the end of the century, and describes damage already occurring across the US, a consequence of warming that has already occurred since 1900, of 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit.
The release of the report shows that federal scientists are continuing to operate independently despite administration appointees seeking to downplay such conclusions as they are presented to the public.
The White House made a statement spinning the report’s conclusions to align with administration statements and policies. According to spokesperson Raj Shah:
“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 emissions. 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 promised the administration supports “scientific analysis and debate.”
The report is mandated to be released every four years. This year’s report lists more than 25 coastal cities that have faced increases in flooding, details more frequent large wildfires in the western US, and cautions of the potential for substantial rises in sea level. Another portion of the report finds that by 2090, rising temperatures could result in “almost 1.9 billion labor hours across the national workforce,” 120 billion dollars in coastal property damage, and as many as 9,300 deaths per year. Additional infrastructure damage could total tens of billions of dollars.
The document emphasizes that this level of damage could still be averted if action is taken to minimize temperature increases.