Scientists are worried about this year's climate report. And it isn't just because it confirms, with copious data, that global warming is real.
They're worried because they are afraid the Trump administration will attempt to suppress or ignore the message it sends: climate change is real, and it's man-made.
The New York Times released a draft version of the report on Monday after researchers called attention to the fact that it had been uploaded on to the Internet Archive last January, but had yet to receive any public acknowledgement.
The report is a special section of the Climate Assessment report that the U.S. is required to issue every four years. Because it has not yet been signed off on by the federal government, it is still considered to be in draft form. But the National Academy of Sciences has approved it, joining academies from around the world in recognizing the scientific and human implications of a rapidly warming climate.
The report is critical because it provides the scientific foundation for the Climate Assessment's true focus: determining the economic and political implications of a shifting and in some cases, worsening climate for the United States. That's why it's important for the the federal administration to acknowledge the findings. Federal policies that determine the use of Federal Emergency Management funding and the laws that are set regarding industries with high carbon emissions will no doubt be affect by the position the Trump administration takes regarding climate change.
And while some closest to the president say there's been no indication that the administration would try to suppress or alter the conclusions of the report, there have been troubling signs within the executive branch that policies are being set to reword or at least soften the interpretation of worsening climate events.
Earlier this week the Guardian Newspaper reported that it had received evidence that an agency within the US Department of Agriculture had been instructed to replace the expression "climate change" with "weather extremes. when talking to the public or other agencies.
According to an email by the head of soil health, Bianca Moebius-Clune, (a sub-section of the Natural Resources Conservation Service), there are certain terms that federal employees are now supposed to replace with other, more, well, nebulous terms.
Avoided terms include expressions like "climate change adaption," which the department is now urging staff to replace with "resilience to weather extremes."
And "greenhouse gasses" gets the tongue-twister, "build soil organic matter, increase nutrient use efficiency."
The policies, which were announced in February on the heels of Donald Trump's inauguration, also dovetailed with a memo by the head of NRCS James Bramblett to his staff acknowledging that the priorities of the former president, wasn't in sync with that of the Trump administration's views on whether climate change existed.
"Please visit with your staff and make them aware of this shift in perspective within the executive branch," Bramblett wrote.
For President Trump however, dealing with climate change may take more than simply inventing nuanced, politically correct language. The latest report holds little back.
"Evidence of a changing climate abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans," scientists write, who also note that "[many] lines of evidence demonstrate that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse (heat-trapping) gases, are primarily responsible for recent observed climate change."
That is going to be a difficult concept to wrestle with politically for a president that was largely elected for his denouncement of Obama-era policies.
"The impending release of a key government report on climate change will force President Trump to choose between accepting the conclusions of his administration’s scientists and the demands of his conservative supporters, who remain deeply unconvinced that humans are the cause of the planet’s warming," writes Washington Post writers Michael D. Shear and Brad Plumer.
Hopefully, it will encourage the president to realize that cities and counties across the country actually need to know potential implications of climate change in their own back yards, and that the dangers of global warming, irrespective of what we call it, are here to stay.
Image: Flickr/Bob Dass
Jan Lee is a former news editor and award-winning editorial writer whose non-fiction and fiction have been published in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Australia. Her articles and posts can be found on TriplePundit, JustMeans, and her blog, The Multicultural Jew, as well as other publications. She currently splits her residence between the city of Vancouver, British Columbia and the rural farmlands of Idaho.
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