A major report on climate change was leaked to the press after concerns that the Trump administration would prevent its public release. The report is one of the most comprehensive produced, and its findings are clear: climate change is here now and the effects will be drastic. No region of the country will be immune from the impacts.
The New York Times and The Washington Post received drafts of a climate report compiled by scientists from 13 federal agencies. The climate report was given to each newspaper out of fear that its findings would be squelched by the Trump administration. The climate report is one that is Congressionally mandated to be released every four years.
The report is not currently public. In order for it to become public, the White House must grant permission to release it.
The substance of the report details impacts, both current and projected, of climate change.
Lead authors of the report are not political or private industry figures. Authors come from institutions such as: the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, NASA, NOAA, Columbia University, Department of Energy Office of Science, and other universities and research departments.
Coverage of the report is confined to the two papers that received a draft of the report. Both feature the report on their front page. That means Fox, NBC, ABC, CBS, etc are not reporting on it. The New York Times notes that the White House and Department of Energy have not commented on its leaked release.
Both papers summarize the nearly 700-page report. The findings are stark and fact-based.
The New York Times leads with the fact that temperatures in the United States have risen rapidly since the 1980s.
The Washington Post leads with the conclusions of “far-reaching damage already occurring from global warming” and how these findings are “at odds with the Trump administration’s views.”
Neither paper veers into the political consequences of the findings beyond the fact that the report was leaked because scientists were fearful it would never see daylight otherwise. The Washington Post briefly ponders the potential response by Trump to a report that further confirms his decision to leave the Paris Agreement was backwards. The New York Times article is lengthier and provides more findings from the report.
Both papers mention that the findings contradict Trump. The Trump administration has sought to muddle the science on climate change by suggesting it is debatable whether or not it is man-made.
Here are some key points highlighted.
From the Washington Post:
– “Many lines of evidence demonstrate that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse (heat trapping) gases, are primarily responsible for recent observed climate changes,” the report notes. “There are no alternative explanations, and no natural cycles are found in the observational record that can explain the observed changes in climate.”
From the New York Times:
– Worldwide, the draft report finds it “extremely likely” that more than half of the global mean temperature increase since 1951 can be linked to human influence.
– The study examines every corner of the United States and finds that all of it was touched by climate change. The average annual temperature in the United States will continue to rise, the authors write, making recent record-setting years “relatively common” in the near future. It projects increases of 5.0 to 7.5 degrees Fahrenheit (2.8 to 4.8 degrees Celsius) by the late century, depending on the level of future admissions.
– Among the more significant of the study’s findings is that it is possible to attribute some extreme weather to climate change. The field known as “attribution science” has advanced rapidly in response to increasing risks from climate change.
This last point is notable because so often the defense from the carbon emissions industry has been to challenge the link between weather events and man-made climate change. They have been arguing that “correlation does not equal causation.” In the case of climate change, it has been a fallacious argument. But it has gained a strong foothold.
Climate change is affecting us today, but it may not be affecting us enough to alter our lifestyles. That will change. The trend in climate science has been to find that the effects of change are occurring much sooner than projected. Climate change will impact us in many ways: violent social unrest, droughts shortening food supplies, severe storms causing billions of dollars in damages, rising sea levels making regions uninhabitable, etc.
1. Should this report receive more coverage? The Times and Post cover it because it could be buried. The implication is that the report’s findings could impair Trump’s agenda to dismantle the EPA, emissions regulations, and rein in climate change adaptation measures. It is also unclear that the report’s findings would persuade climate-deniers.
However, the increased coverage might. The granular findings of the report may not sway opinions. But headlines raise awareness. See enough of them on one topic, and the issue becomes significant. People form opinions when they face an issue multiple times.
2. What should be done? The scientists leaking the report wanted it to be exposed. The Trump administration would be fine to let it drift into obscurity. In order for the final draft to be released to the public, the White House must approve it. Therefore, the clearest option is to call your Congressmen and pressure them to request the report’s release. The findings play a key role in how policy for the future will be crafted.
Update 3:25PM 8/8/17: The report is now being covered by multiple mainstream media sites. It is currently the top trending story on CNN. Fox News has also reported that drafts of the report were publicly available during a period for public review earlier in the year. According to Fox, although it was removed from some public links, drafts remain available in archives.