Even if President Trump refuses to act on climate, citizens, state and local lawmakers, and businesses must all continue to band together to save the planet.
Thirteen federal agencies of the Trump administration released the 4th National Climate Assessment on Friday, which concluded that manmade climate change is a clear and present danger to the American people. The findings stand in sharp contrast to President Trump's rollback agenda and repeated denial of climate change. "This is our report—for our time—and the message is crystal clear: Climate change is not a political football,” says NRDC president Rhea Suh. “It’s an existential threat to our nation and our people.”
The congressionally mandated report—produced by 13 federal agencies that make up the U.S. Global Change Research Program, an initiative started by President Ronald Reagan—summarizes what climate change means for the United States. The agencies include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Aeronautics & Space Administration, the Pentagon, and the U.S. Department of State.
According to the report, human activity, primarily the burning of fossil fuels, is causing climate change. U.S. average temperatures have already increased 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century and will rise by at least 3 degrees more, perhaps several times that amount, by 2100—and there is no possibility of the trend slowing down without intervention, or of it reversing itself, as President Trump has publicly suggested.
“From the floods that swamp our coastlines to the droughts that bake our crops, from the fires on the mountains to the coral dying at sea,” says NRDC president Rhea Suh, “America is telling us every way it can that it’s time to cut the fossil fuel pollution that’s driving global climate change—before it’s too late.”
The report also reaffirms what scientists have now been saying for decades: Climate change will continue to put people’s health at risk. Respiratory illnesses like hay fever and asthma will become more frequent and more severe. Extreme heat will threaten the most vulnerable, from the elderly to children to communities of color. Infectious diseases spread by insects that were once relegated to tropical climates, like West Nile and Zika, will move northward, taking thousands more lives and costing billions more.
The faster we reduce emissions by transitioning to clean energy sources, the less risk we face. The stakes are high: Reducing greenhouse gas emissions will, by the end of the century, potentially save thousands of lives annually and generate hundreds of billions of dollars of health-related economic benefits. The latest National Climate Assessment echoes the recent IPCC climate change report, which suggested a complete transition away from coal within the next 12 years in order to limit warming to 1.5 degrees.
And yet, the Trump administration has doubled down on its support of the fossil fuel industry and is working to reverse some of the most ambitious Obama-era climate policies—including the Clean Power Plan and vehicle emissions standards. Perhaps most concerning: The administration has repeatedly undermined the role of science in crafting federal policies that accurately reflect the risks posed by global warming.
"It’s time for every public servant, and every citizen, to read this report and think about what it means for our prosperity, our security, and our very way of life,” Suh says. “It’s time for those who represent us at the state, local, and federal levels to lead the fight against climate change or get behind those who do. It’s time to cut our carbon pollution today so our kids don’t inherit climate catastrophe tomorrow."