November 3rd, 2017

171103 climate change special report

Coordinating lead authors Donald J. Wuebbles, National Science Foundation and U.S. Global Change Research Program—University of Illinois; David W. Fahey, NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory and Kathy A. Hibbard, NASA Headquarters have just published what I’m certain will be the source of much angst and sleeplessness among those who continue to deny that the existential threat posed to life as we know it on Earth by human-caused climate change/global warming. Because I fear that this vital document may disappear from government servers—there’s a reason the document was released on a Friday—I’ve taken the precautionary step to download the file and archive multiple copies.

The executive summary of the 477-page report begins:

New observations and new research have increased our understanding of past, current, and future climate change since the Third U.S. National Climate Assessment was published in May 2014. This Climate Science Special Report is designed to capture that new information and build on the existing body of science in order to summarize the current state of knowledge and provide the scientific foundation for the Fourth National Climate Assessment.

Since NCA3, stronger evidence has emerged for continuing, rapid, human-caused warming of the global atmosphere and ocean. This report concludes that “it is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence.”

The last few years have also seen record-breaking, climate-related weather extremes, the three warmest years on record for the globe, and continued decline in arctic sea ice. These trends are expected to continue in the future over climate (multidecadal) timescales. Significant advances have also been made in our understanding of extreme weather events and how they relate to increasing global temperatures and associated climate changes. Since 1980, the cost of extreme events for the United States has exceeded $1.1 trillion; therefore, better understanding of the frequency and severity of these events in the context of a changing climate is warranted.

The significance of NCA4 cannot be underestimated. Lisa Friedman and Glenn Thrush, writing in U.S. Report Says Humans Cause Climate Change, Contradicting Top Trump Officials for The New York Times, lede:

Directly contradicting much of the Trump administration’s position on climate change, 13 federal agencies unveiled an exhaustive scientific report on Friday that says humans are the dominant cause of the global temperature rise that has created the warmest period in the history of civilization.

Over the past 115 years global average temperatures have increased 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, leading to record-breaking weather events and temperature extremes, the report says. The global, long-term warming trend is “unambiguous,” it says, and there is “no convincing alternative explanation” that anything other than humans—the cars we drive, the power plants we operate, the forests we destroy—are to blame.

The report was approved for release by the White House, but the findings come as the Trump administration is defending its climate change policies. The United Nations convenes its annual climate change conference next week in Bonn, Germany, and the American delegation is expected to face harsh criticism over President Trump’s decision to walk away from the 195-nation Paris climate accord and top administration officials’ stated doubts about the causes and impacts of a warming planet.

“This report has some very powerful, hard-hitting statements that are totally at odds with senior administration folks and at odds with their policies,” said Philip B. Duffy, president of the Woods Hole Research Center. “It begs the question, where are members of the administration getting their information from? They’re obviously not getting it from their own scientists.”

While there were pockets of resistance to the report in the Trump administration, according to climate scientists involved in drafting the report, there was little appetite for a knockdown fight over climate change among Mr. Trump’s top advisers, who are intensely focused on passing a tax reform bill—an effort they think could determine the fate of his presidency.

This report comes on the heels of another report from earlier today: The three-degree world: the cities that will be drowned by global warming. President Donald John Trump and his mindless minions can scream as much as they want, but climate change, unlike Tinkerbell, doesn’t disappear when you don’t believe.

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