New climate change report cites human activity

By Roxanne Lee

Staff Writer

The U.S. Global Change Research Program released part of the Fourth National Climate Assessment report on Friday, Nov. 3, saying it is “extremely likely” that humans are driving climate change.

The 477-page report, written by authors from within federal agencies and some unaffiliated with the government, lists greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere by agriculture and infrastrcuture as the biggest contributor to global warming. The report’s key three conclusions are that we are living in the warmest period in modern civilization, that humans are causing climate change, and that if we do not curb emissions, average global temperatures could rise by up to 5 degrees centigrade.

The melting of ice sheets has accelerated, and projected sea level rise for the year 2100 has risen from 2 meters to 2.6 meters. The report also mentions that extreme weather, like heavy rain and heat waves, should be attributed to global warming. This data is part of Volume 1, and the second and final volume for the report will be released in December of 2018.

The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) was established in 1989. It is overseen by the President, as well as the White House Office of Science and Technology (the top post of which has been absent since Trump came into office).

The USGCRP researches  changes in the global environment and its potential impacts on society. The program releases a National Climate Assessment every four years on the state of climate in the U.S. and the world. The last climate report was released in 2014, and also attributed warming to human activity, but it did not disclose a confidence level in its findings. The new report claims 95 to 100 percent confidence.

The White House’s approval of the report with no censorship has come as a surprise, as the contents of the report are at direct odds with the current administration’s stance on climate change. The President, often vocal of his denial of climate change, withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015 this year.

EPA Director Scott Pruitt is a noted climate change denier, whose current actions undermine the department he leads. On Oct. 31, he approved the removal of researchers with EPA grants from serving on  the agency’s advisory boards in hopes to reduce bias in favor of the agency’s agenda. This could remove at least 5 scientists from the main science advisory board.

Rick Perry, current head of the U.S. Department of Energy, said at an energy policy event on Nov. 2 that he didn’t think humans were the main drivers of climate change. 

The current administration likely will not take the assessment’s dire warning to heart and use it as a reference for future policy, but only time will tell what kind of influence it has on the government, if any. Volume 1 of the Fourth National Climate Assessment is free to read online.

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