Earlier this week, the New York Times published a piece on a major climate report awaiting final clearance from the White House on August 18. On the heels of that story, an international report released yesterday confirmed that 2016 was the third consecutive warmest year on record for the planet.
In the face of this climate urgency, many scientists and officials have big concerns about President Trump’s suppression of facts and science, especially considering how it can lead to bad policy decisions that threaten the health and safety of Americans. Political operatives meddling with climate science reports is not new, which compounds the worries—former oil lobbyists in the George W. Bush administration quietly edited scientific reports to downplay the urgency of the climate crisis, helping to justify its do-nothing agenda.
How the Trump team will respond to this report has piqued interest. The White House press secretary firmly stated that there will be no statements until the report is final. The question now is what will happen when the August deadline passes. Will the White House approve the report and admit the need for immediate action? Will it interfere with the report’s conclusions? Or will it bury the report altogether and carry on with its plans to scrap climate safeguards?
The draft climate report is part of the upcoming Fourth National Climate Assessment, the most comprehensive climate study in the United States. Hundreds of experts review existing studies to draw clear, irrefutable conclusions about climate change. The latest draft has found with incredibly high certainty that humans are responsible for the rapidly changing climate. That means we have the power to solve the problem.
Publishing the report as-is will not square easily with the Trump agenda to roll back our climate progress. If I were a betting woman, I would expect Trump’s team to pull from a rolodex of excuses about why we should do nothing. They will claim “humans aren’t the cause,” “the impacts aren’t that bad,” or “the solutions will hurt American businesses.”
When you hear Trump’s top three excuses, here’s what to keep in mind:
- We know humans are causing climate change. From Trump’s claims that climate change is a “hoax” to his cabinet members questioning the role of human activity, we will likely hear doubts that humans are the primary cause of climate change. This draft, along with many comprehensive reports preceding it, clearly refute these doubts. Scott Pruitt, head of the EPA, has called for a “red team/blue team” exercise to question climate science, an idea rejected by science organizations. [Author’s note: I cannot believe we are still talking about this. The evidence has been reaffirmed so many times and 97 percent of scientists agree that humans cause climate change.]
- We know the impacts will be devastating if we do nothing. The overwhelming evidence demonstrates that we must act quickly to avoid disastrous consequences. Superstorm Sandy and the hundred-year floods in Louisiana have already shown us how these dangerous climate impacts can upend thousands of Americans’ lives and livelihoods. Trump’s allies like Rupert Murdoch have exaggerated conclusions that climate change may have positive effects like increased crop yields, while ignoring how such effects will be drastically outweighed by the negative impacts. A June 2017 study published in the journal Science shows overall, we could lose 1.2 percent of GDP for every one degree (C) rise in global temperature. Instead, we need to take aggressive action to avoid the worst impacts—an August 2017 analysis from Columbia University showed that key existing federal standards to reduce climate emissions will yield annual net benefits to our health and climate of $300 billion, far outweighing the costs, in the year 2030.
- Cutting carbon pollution is good for jobs and businesses. Trump’s UN Ambassador, Nikki Haley, responded to the NYT story by acknowledging that climate change is happening but we can’t “sell out” American businesses to address it. This is a false choice that we are almost certain to hear from Trump’s team as the primary excuse to roll back our climate protections. The United States and dozens of other countries achieved economic growth while reducing carbon pollution. The renewable energy industry is flourishing, and jobs to increase energy efficiency are on the rise. In 2016, the solar and wind workforces increased by 25 percent and 32 percent, respectively. More than 3.3 million Americans are directly employed by clean energy industries, including: the energy efficiency, smart grid, and energy storage industries; renewable electricity generation; renewable fuels production; and the electric, hybrid, and hydrogen-based vehicle industries.
This last excuse, that addressing climate change will hurt American businesses, served as the foundation for Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement. In that June speech, he ignored the plain facts and exclaimed, “our businesses will come to a halt in many cases, and the American family will suffer the consequences in the form of lost jobs” if we stop using dirty energy sources. In reality, taking federal action to cut carbon pollution and promote renewable energy would accelerate job growth. According to a June 2017 NRDC analysis, renewable energy tax credits, extended in 2015, are projected to create more than 220,000 jobs this year alone and will add thousands more each year through 2025. An Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) report from June illustrated that implementing the Clean Power Plan, finalized by the Obama Administration, could create up to 560,000 jobs in the year 2030 (not to mention adding $52 billion to our GDP), compared to a scenario without the CPP.
It’s time for Trump to stop making excuses and start embracing climate solutions.