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The White House’s new climate report contradicts everything Trump is doing on climate

The White House Mark Wilson / Getty Images
Umair Irfan is a correspondent at Vox writing about climate change, Covid-19, and energy policy. Irfan is also a regular contributor to the radio program Science Friday. Prior to Vox, he was a reporter for ClimateWire at E&E News.

A new government report on the science of climate change has made it past the Trump White House unscathed with forceful statements about humanity’s role in rising temperatures and their severe threat to the United States.

“This assessment concludes, based on extensive evidence, that it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century,” according to the Climate Science Special Report. “For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence.”

The US Global Change Research Program is required by statute to produce the comprehensive National Climate Assessment report on climate change impacts on the United States every four years. It is overseen by the Executive Office of the President and receives input from 13 federal agencies.

The special report, meant to thoroughly address the state of the science, is the first volume of the assessment. The rest is due out in 2018.

Scientists were concerned that the Trump administration would take steps to undermine or censor the report or its conclusions, leading some authors to contact reporters to publicize a draft to try to get ahead of any interference.

And those concerns were valid, given that President Trump has made it his mission to undo Obama’s legacy, particularly on climate change.

Trump has famously described climate change as a “hoax,” and put forward a budget proposal that cuts funding for climate research. He vowed to withdraw the US from the Paris climate agreement, and his executive branch has shown a penchant for removing the words “climate change” from websites.

But when it came to the release of the Climate Science Special Report, the administration did not interfere. The report was released on time, and it definitively affirms that the science around climate change is robust and the problem is urgent.

“There is broad consensus that the further and the faster the Earth system is pushed towards warming, the greater the risk of unanticipated changes and impacts, some of which are potentially large and irreversible,” according to the report.

None of the findings are particularly novel, and drafts of the reports have been in circulation since January. But they are striking in how much they stand in contrast to the policies and statements of the Trump administration.

Trump has worked hard to appoint and staff his administration with people loyal to the fossil fuel sector and is coming up with absurd strategies to attempt to resurrect coal in the United States.

Meanwhile, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt told CNBC that he doesn’t think human-produced carbon dioxide is driving climate change. “I would not agree that it's a primary contributor to the global warming that we see,” he said.

Pruitt is quickly and quietly working to undo many of his agency’s regulations on pollution and is driving out his agency’s science advisers in favor of those representing industry.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry has also said that human activity is not the main driver of climate change. “No, most likely the primary control knob is the ocean waters and this environment that we live in,” he told CNBC.

Over at the White House Office of Management and Budget, Director Mick Mulvaney told reporters in March that spending federal money on climate science is “a waste of your money.”

For its part, the White House tried to soften the main conclusion of the report it approved.

"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 [greenhouse gas] emissions,'" White House spokesperson Raj Shah said Friday in a statement. "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."

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