The Washington Post yesterday had a startling story. They found buried deep in a 500-page environmental impact statement “the Trump administration made a startling assumption: On its current course, the planet will warm a disastrous seven degrees by the end of this century.”
Such a rise, scientists believe would be catastrophic, including “any coral reefs would dissolve in increasingly acidic oceans. Parts of Manhattan and Miami would be underwater without costly coastal defenses. Extreme heat waves would routinely smother large parts of the globe.”
However, there are no dire warnings. They do not recommend that the world cut its greenhouse gas emissions.
Instead, the analysis they offer simply “assumes the plant’s fate is already sealed.”
In fact, the statement was written by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in order to justify the president’s decision to freeze federal fuel-efficiency standards for cars built after 2020.
“While the proposal would increase greenhouse gas emissions, the impact statement says, that policy would add just a very small drop to a very big, hot bucket,” the post reports.
“The amazing thing they’re saying is human activities are going to lead to this rise of carbon dioxide that is disastrous for the environment and society. And then they’re saying they’re not going to do anything about it,” said Michael MacCracken, who served as a senior scientist at the U.S. Global Change Research Program from 1993 to 2002.
Instead, the Trump administration projects that global temperature will rise by nearly 3.5 degrees Celsius above what the average temperature was between 1986 and 2005 – regardless of whether Obama-era tailpipe standards take effect or are frozen for six years, as the Trump administration has proposed.
The world would “have to make deep cuts in carbon emissions to avoid this drastic warming,” the analysis states.
And that “would require substantial increases in technology innovation and adoption compared to today’s levels and would require the economy and the vehicle fleet to move away from the use of fossil fuels, which is not currently technologically feasible or economically feasible.”
This is the first acknowledgement by the Trump administration that temperatures are rising as the result of human activities. But instead of attempting mitigation as others have, they seem to be advocating that we simply throw up our hands and concede.
The rest of the world has taken a mitigation approach.
“World leaders have pledged to keep the world from warming more than two degrees Celsius compared with preindustrial levels, and agreed to try to keep the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” the Post reports but warns, “But the current greenhouse gas cuts pledged under the 2015 Paris climate agreement are not steep enough to meet either goal. Scientists predict a four degree Celsius rise by the century’s end if countries take no meaningful actions to curb their carbon output.”
Meanwhile, the Trump administration has moved in the other direction. Trump has vowed to exit the Paris accords. He has called climate change a hoax – something now contradicted by his own administration.
In the past two months, “the White House has pushed to dismantle nearly half a dozen major rules aimed at reducing greenhouse gases, deregulatory moves intended to save companies hundreds of millions of dollars.”
If enacted, “the administration’s proposals would give new life to aging coal plants; allow oil and gas operations to release more methane into the atmosphere; and prevent new curbs on greenhouse gases used in refrigerators and air-conditioning units. The vehicle rule alone would put 8 billion additional tons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere this century, more than a year’s worth of total U.S. emissions, according to the government’s own analysis.”
Administration estimates “acknowledge that the policies would release far more greenhouse gas emissions from America’s energy and transportation sectors than otherwise would have been allowed.”
Despite Donald Trump’s skepticism, “federal agencies conducting scientific research have often reaffirmed that humans are causing climate change, including in a major 2017 report that found ‘no convincing alternative explanation.’”
The Post reports that one internal White House memo has officials wondering “whether it would be best to simply ‘ignore’ such analyses.”
David Pettit, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council who testified against Trump’s freeze of car mileage standards Monday in Fresno, Calif., told the Post that his organization is prepared to use the administration’s own numbers to challenge its regulatory rollbacks.
He told the Post by phone, “I was shocked when I saw it. These are their numbers. They aren’t our numbers.”
So now the key question: how will climate change deniers respond to the data that is coming out of the Trump administration – can they continue to deny the existence of anthropogenic climate change in the wake of this information?
—David M. Greenwald reporting