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Rebutting Trump, US Agencies Say Humans Caused Climate Change

In a direct contradiction of President Donald Trump and his administration, 13 federal agencies released a comprehensive report Friday concluding climate change is a direct result of human activities and has led to what is now the warmest period in the history of human civilization.

(CN) - In a direct contradiction of President Donald Trump and his administration, 13 federal agencies released a comprehensive report Friday concluding climate change is a direct result of human activities and has led to what is now the warmest period in the history of human civilization.

“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,” the report states. “For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence.”

The U.S. Global Change Research Program synthesized the findings of more than 1,500 scientists to conclude that climate change is happening, it is caused by human activities, which in turn are causing an increase in natural disasters and the only means of curtailing it is by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was the lead agency in compiling the 477-page report, which ultimately included the input or approval of 12 other federal agencies, including the White House.

The White House’s approval is somewhat surprising given the public positions of its occupant, but it put to rest fears and speculation that Trump and his administration would block or bury the report, given the president has variously labeled climate change a “canard” and a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese.

The findings of the report contend global annually averaged surface temperature has increased by 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit over the past 115 years, after analyzing global temperature data over a period beginning in 1901 and running through 2016.

“The last few years have also seen record-breaking, climate-related weather extremes, and the last three years have been the warmest years on record for the globe,” the report says. “These trends are expected to continue over climate timescales.”

The report further documents other changes to the Earth and its atmosphere as a result of the increase in greenhouse gas emissions, which scientists believe is the principal culprit in causing climate change.

Not only has surface air temperature increased, but atmospheric and oceanic temperatures are steadily on the rise as well, the report states. Other factors like melting glaciers, diminishing snow packs, shrinking snow cover, vanishing sea ice, sea level rise, ocean acidification and increasing atmospheric water vapor are occurring at a steady pace.

“Global average sea level has risen by about 7–8 inches since 1900, with almost half of that rise occurring since 1993,” the study states. “Human-caused climate change has made a substantial contribution to this rise since 1900, contributing to a rate of rise that is greater than during any preceding century in at least 2,800 years.”

The report further details the increased frequency and intensity of natural disasters, such as hurricanes, drought, wildfires and flooding that are likely a result of human-caused climate change.

Large forest fires throughout the American West and Alaska have increased rapidly since 1980 and project to increase more so with profound consequences to local ecosystems.

Reductions in snowpack and melting patterns that occur earlier in spring are creating water shortages in California and other western states, with those effects only figuring to worsen in coming years.

Despite the new emphasis on fossil fuel production espoused by Trump and members of his cabinet — from Energy Department Secretary Rick Perry to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, to Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke — the report is clear that the only thing that will reverse the alarming trends is less greenhouse gas emissions.

“Without major reductions in emissions, the increase in annual average global temperature relative to preindustrial times could reach 9°F (5°C) or more by the end of this century,” the report states. “With significant reductions in emissions, the increase in annual average global temperature could be limited to 3.6°F (2°C) or less.”

Efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions and restrain global temperature increases have caught on in countries around the globe, culminating in the Paris accord, signed by 195 countries from around the world.

Containing pledges to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, the agreement was widely seen as a landmark example of international recognition that climate change presents an existential threat to the human species and must be combated through international cooperation.

Trump said in June that he will withdraw the United States from the Paris agreement, making the U.S. and Syria the only two countries not party to the deal. However, reports indicate that Trump has signaled to European leaders he would be willing to reenter the agreement after negotiations.

Members of the Trump cabinet have continued to deny the scientific consensus that human activity is responsible for climate change.

Pruitt recently refuted the broadly held concept that carbon dioxide is a major contributor to climate change. The EPA has scrubbed many of its public documents regarding climate change from its websites and printed materials.

Likewise, Zinke’s leaked five-year management plan for public lands overseen by his department discussed at length the potential for oil and gas development on public lands and barely made a passing mention of climate change.

Perry said “the science is out” regarding the nexus between rising temperatures and human activities.

But Trump’s own government rebuffed those sentiments on Friday, an irony not lost on several environmental organizations critical of the new administration's orientation toward climate change issues.

“The report confirms the alarming pace of climate change, underlining anew the critical need to curb carbon pollution—a stark message the Trump administration should take to heart instead of aggressively promoting fossil fuels,” said Juanita Constible, director of the climate and clean air program for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

After months of anxiety over whether the report would be released, researchers and advocates expressed relief that it was made publicly available but bemoaned the fact that the current administration is pursuing policies that appear in blunt juxtaposition to the determinations of its scientific findings.

“We have the solutions: cleaning up power plants and vehicles, expanding clean energy, and improving energy efficiency in buildings and homes,” Constible said. “We just need the will to get the job done, before it’s too late.”

In response to the report, White House spokesman Raj Shah told CNN, “The climate has changed and is always changing…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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Categories / Environment, Government, Science

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