New government report warns about growing impact of climate change

Climate change 
A new climate report from the federal government released Friday warns that current global and regional efforts to stave off the devastating effects of climate change are insufficient.

The report, the first of its kind released under the Trump administration, finds that climate change is expected to interrupt the way people live day-to-day as it ravages infrastructure, impacts human health, poses challenges to the global economy and threatens the world's energy supply. 

The Global Change Research Act of 1990 mandates that the federal government release a report about global warming and climate change every four years. This report, the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4), is the latest fulfillment of that mandate. It is the counterpart to the Climate Science Special Report, which was released last year.

The damning report, which analyzes the effects of climate change by U.S. region, comes as President Trump has continued to cast doubt on the scientific consensus that global warming and climate change are caused by human activity. Trump on Wednesday seemed to scoff at the idea of global warming.

The report states emphatically: Global warming exists and it is a threat to humankind's survival.

"Global average temperature has increased by about 1.8 [degrees] from 1901 to 2016, and observational evidence does not support any credible natural explanations for this amount of warming," the report reads. "Instead, the evidence consistently points to human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse or heat-trapping gases, as the dominant cause."

"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 Fourth National Climate Assessment reads.

The report was originally set for release next month, but it was released this week to the surprise of those invested in its rollout.

Many criticized the report for its new release date: Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is typically ones of the slowest news days of the year as people spend time with family and go shopping. Some scientists and environmental activists said the timing of its release could bury the report's dire findings.

“It’s an absolute disgrace to bury the truth about climate impacts in a year that saw hundreds of Americans die during devastating climate-fueled megafires, hurricanes, floods, and algal blooms," said National Wildlife Federation President Collin O’Mara in a statement.

David Easterling, director of the National Centers for Environmental Information Technical Support Unit, during a phone call with reporters said the release date was moved up because the program responsible for it felt it "would be a topic of discussion" at two international conferences coming up.

"We wanted to get this out sufficiently in advance of those meetings to ensure that folks have a chance to review it," Easterling said.

Easterling declined to answer questions from reporters who asked if the White House weighed in on the report's release date. Easterling and Burkett repeatedly said they did not want to use the phone call to discuss what prompted the report's early release.

Burkett and the other scientists on the line declined to answer questions about the contradictions between the report's findings and the White House's climate-skeptical messaging.

"This report has not been altered or revised in any way" according to "political considerations," Burckett said, redirecting all questions about the president and White House.

The report finds that the global average temperature is at its highest temperature in history, sea levels have continued to rise, and extreme events have intensified and will continue to increase in frequency.

Released shortly after the wildfires ravaging areas of Northern California were determined to be the deadliest and most destructive in the state's history, the report predicts that wildfire seasons could incinerate up to six times more forest area every year by 2050 in some parts of the U.S. The report was written before the devastating "Camp Fire" took place.

The report also finds that flooding is expected to intensify along the U.S. coasts, where infrastructure and real estate is at risk of severe devastation.

Climate change is could cost the country up to hundreds of billions of dollars annually.
More than 300 federal and nonfederal experts participated in creating the assessment, which is based on scientific research and on-the-ground discussions with those impacted by climate change.

The report emphasizes that those most impacted by the intensifying storms and weather patterns caused by global warming will be poor and marginalized communities.

"Risks are often highest for those that are already vulnerable, including low-income communities, some communities of color, children, and the elderly," it reads, citing multiple scientific studies. "Climate change threatens to exacerbate existing social and economic inequalities that result in higher exposure and sensitivity to extreme weather and climate-related events and other changes."

While most of the information in the report is already known by climate scientists, the report's intention is to propose solutions and possible actions for policymakers.

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