Hurricane Florence approaches U.S. East Coast Sept. 12, 2018
A long-awaited climate report that the Trump administration released on Black Friday reportedly in an attempt to bury the news, shows that climate change is already having a dramatic effect on life in the U.S., and that among the things it will damage is the American economy.
The report anticipates that if significant steps aren’t taken to reduce global warming, it could cut 10 percent off American gross domestic product by 10 percent by 2100.
Thirteen federal agencies including the National Academy of Sciences, the Committee on Environmental and Natural Resources, and the National Science and Technology Council, along with university and commercial scientists were required by Congress to release the report, called the Fourth National Climate Assessment. Lacking the legal authority to quash the report, the Trump administration released it on what is notoriously one of the slowest news days of the year, when Americans are out shopping.
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The report links heat waves, wildfires, hurricanes, flooding, droughts, crop failures, and damage to infrastructure that has already affected U.S. communities to climate change, and says that “to avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades,” people must take aggressive steps to mitigate climate effects and adapt to those that are already inevitable.
A chapter focusing on the transportation sector noted that in 2016 it became the top contributor to U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
Crop yields from the U.S. Midwest, known as the “breadbasket of the world,” could fall to 1980 levels by 2050, the report estimates, and that the southeastern U.S. could develop its own fire season. It enumerates the infrastructure damage that has already occurred due to flooding in the southeast and East Coast, and wildfires in the West, for example.
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The report draws stronger conclusions than three earlier National Climate Assessments in 2000, 2009, and 2014, noting that these types of natural disasters have been increasing in the last 15 years, and that the chances of having more such events going forward are increasing.
The report’s conclusions fly in the face of the Trump administration’s efforts to countermand President Obama’s policies to reduce global warming, including limiting future increases in fuel economy, scrapping a program to clean up power plants—which would have helped make current and future electric vehicles cleaner—promoting electricity production from coal, and withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord.
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Scientists who worked on the report told various news agencies that the administration did not try to alter its conclusions, but that it was released at 2 p.m. on Black Friday to minimize its impact.
One benefit the report may have, even despite a lack of media coverage, may be to weaken the administration’s legal case to gut environmental standards, such as the freeze in federal fuel-economy rules, which is already being challenged in court.
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