The coal-happy Trump administration soon will decide whether to release or change a report by 13 federal agencies citing human influences on climate change.
The National Climate Assessment, which Congress has mandated to be issued every four years, includes a draft of the U.S. Global Change Research Program Climate Science Special Report, already approved by the National Academy of Sciences. It was posted online in January without fanfare and revealed earlier this month by the New York Times.
The draft states it is “extremely likely” more than half of the global mean temperature increase since 1951 is attributable to human activities.
Global annual-average temperature increased by more than 1.2°F (0.67°C) from 1986-2016 relative to 1901-60 and by 1.8°F (1°C) from 1901-2016 — faster “than at any time in the past 1,700 years or more” … “when global distribution of surface temperatures can be reconstructed.”
“Evidence for a changing climate abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans,” the draft adds, citing thousands of studies.
With significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, it contends, the global annually averaged temperatures could be limited to an increase of 3.6°F or (2°C) over this century. Otherwise, it would rise 9°F (5°C) by 2100.
Every half-degree increase results in longer heat waves, more intense storms, the melting of the polar icecap and disintegration of coral reefs.
The draft doesn’t blame every weather calamity on human activities, stating “natural variability, including El Nino events and other recurring patterns of ocean-atmosphere interactions, impact temperature and precipitation, especially regionally, over timescales of months to years.”
But “natural variability” alone, it contends, would increase temperatures by only by 0.5°F (0.3°C).
“Many lines of evidence demonstrate that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse (heat-trapping) gases, are primarily responsible for recent observed climate change,” the scientists wrote.
The cost of dealing with extreme weather events in the U.S. since 1980 was put at $1.1 trillion. Ascribing all major U.S. droughts to human activity is “complicated,” they determined, because such occurrences are not unprecedented.
Meanwhile, 190 scientists from 39 Iowa universities and colleges released the seventh annual Iowa Climate Statement. It found “absolute humidity” — measured by dew-point temperature — had increased statewide by 8 percent (Mason City) to 23 percent (Dubuque) since 1971, including 10.7 percent in Waterloo.
They cited “good evidence” it was related to the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, bringing more springtime moisture from the Gulf of Mexico.
“The increasing costs for flooding, mold, insects, mosquitoes, humidity-related health issues, grain drying, air conditioning, erosion, etc., are evidence that climate change in humidity already is having a negative impact on both public and private checkbooks,” said Gene Takle, director of Iowa State University’s climate science program.
The study cited an increase in the frequency of intense rain in Iowa during the past 50 years, along with the northern migration of new agricultural pests and diseases formerly stymied by cold weather.
The Trump administration earlier this year joined Syria and Nicaragua as the only nations opting out of the Paris accord on climate change, which asked each country to voluntarily make changes.
It was a shortsighted position that ignored not just the scientific evidence, but the enormous geopolitical repercussions as well, notably a possible massive Middle East exodus.
Last October, the journal Nature Climate Change predicted by the end of the century heat waves would threaten human existence in the Persian Gulf. The Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and the Cyprus Institute in Nicosia came to the same conclusion about the Middle East and North Africa.
Consider these summer 2016 temperatures:
In late July, Eastern Hemisphere records were broken — 129 degrees in Basra, Iraq, and Mitribah, Kuwait.
Parts of the United Arab Emirates and Iran experienced a heat index — heat and humidity — of 140 degrees in July.
Baghdad went nearly two months after June 19 with temperatures reaching 109 degrees or higher almost daily — 10 to 20 degrees above normal.
If the heat weren’t enough, those regions are predicted to have less rainfall and saltier groundwater.
Instead, the Trump administration is championing the resurgence of coal, which emits twice as much in greenhouse gas as lower-cost natural gas increasingly favored by utility companies. Given that U.S. coal consumption is down 27 percent since 2005, the administration wants to export the coal overseas.
Thirty states have enacted healthier positions — standards requiring utilities and power companies to sharply increase reliance on renewable energy. Even Texas, which has an abundance of fossil fuels, is increasingly powered by wind — a record 45 percent of its Nov. 27 energy usage.
We have been entrusted with one planet. For the sake of generations to follow, warnings not to screw it up should be heeded.