The four global warming impact studies Bush tried to bury in his final days

NOTE TO U.S. MEDIA: Please don’t fall for this Administration’s final climate trick — don’t ignore these important studies.

Normally, when an administration wants to bury bad news — such as a government report it doesn’t like — the story gets released Friday afternoon. That ensures minimal media coverage. For news it really doesn’t like, the Friday of a three-day weekend is ideal.

So what subject matter is so abhorrent it would motivate the Bush administration to release multiple reports simultaneously the Friday before the four-day weekend that culminates in their loss of power, when they can be certain the media will be focused on other matters?

Answer: The impact of human-caused global warming on Americans — arguably the single most taboo subject in the entire Bush administration. For 8 years they have avoided their statutory obligation to detail the impacts of climate change on this country. And they have systematically muzzled government climate scientists from discussing those impacts with the public or the media (see “Climate Science Muzzling Meets the House“).

It was easier to find people in the Bush administration to talk about torture or warrantless wiretaps, than it was to get someone to speak on (or off) the record or on the likely impact of Bush’s policy of unrestricted greenhouse gas emissions on Americans.

On Friday January 16, the U.S. Climate Change Science Program actually released four major Synthesis and Assessment reports. You may remember the last report the CCSP released — US Geological Survey stunner: Sea-level rise in 2100 will likely “substantially exceed” IPCC projections, SW faces “permanent drying” by 2050. I was told by scientists knowledgeable about the CCSP process that all of the major impact reports were slowed down in the review process to make sure they came out after the election.

So what are the reports the Bushies have tried to bury? From the CCSP website:

Final Report of Synthesis and Assessment Product 4.1 (Coastal Sensitivity to Sea-Level Rise: A Focus on the Mid-Atlantic Region) is posted online. See also press release from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and EPA web-page. (posted 16 Jan 2009)

Final Report of Synthesis and Assessment Product 4.2 (Thresholds of Climate Change in Ecosystems) is posted. See also press release from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). (posted 16 Jan 2009)

Final Report of Synthesis and Assessment Product 2.3 (Aerosol properties and their impacts on climate) is posted online. See also press release from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). (posted 16 Jan 2009)

Final Report of Synthesis and Assessment Product 1.2 (Past Climate Variability and Change in the Arctic and at High Latitudes) is posted. See also press release from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). (posted 16 Jan 2009)

These are all substantive and comprehensive studies, almost on a par with the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment (see “Absolute MUST Read IPCC Report: Debate over, further delay fatal, action not costly“).

The sea level report warns “Most coastal wetlands in the mid-Atlantic would be lost if sea level rises one meter in the next century.” If the report has a weakness, it’s that it is still mired in the IPCC’s outdated and incomplete projection. The CCSP report considers one meter sea level rise by 2100 its extreme scenario, and actually focuses on two considerably milder scenarios, when the latest science (see “Startling new sea level rise research: “Most likely” 0.8 to 2.0 meters by 2100“) and its own December report makes clear a one meter rise by 2100 is hardly a worst-case scenario for this country.

The Arctic and High Latitudes report concludes its discussion of Arctic ice loss:

Shrinkage that was both similarly large and rapid has not been documented over at least the last few thousand years…. The recent ice loss does not seem to be explainable by natural climatic and hydrographic variability on decadal time scales, and is remarkable for occurring when reduction in summer sunshine from orbital changes has caused sea-ice melting to be less likely than in the previous millennia since the end of the last ice age. The recent changes thus appear notably anomalous….

Canadian media wrote one of the few stories on the study, headlined “Climate warming ‘highly unusual’ says new study: Findings counter argument that melt is part of climate cycle“:

A major U.S. government report on Arctic climate, prepared with information from eight Canadian scientists, has concluded that the recent rapid warming of polar temperatures and shrinking of multi-year Arctic sea ice are “highly unusual compared to events from previous thousands of years.”

The findings, released Friday, counter suggestions from skeptics that such recent events as the opening of the Northwest Passage and collapse of ice shelves in the Canadian Arctic are predictable phenomena that can be explained as part of a natural climate cycle rather than being driven by elevated carbon emissions from human activity.

The U.S. public deserves to know what the latest science says about recent Arctic warming.

The Thresholds of Climate Change in Ecosystems report is sufficiently interesting and important and long that I will address it in a separate post after the inauguration.

Let me end with a quote from the Arctic report:

The past tells us that when thresholds in the climate system are crossed, climate change can be very large and very fast. We cannot rule out that human-induced climate change will trigger such events in the future.

The time to act is now.

For more on the CCSP reports and muzzling by the Bushies, see the excellent watchdog website, ClimateScienceWatch, starting with this post by Anne Polansky.

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9 Responses to The four global warming impact studies Bush tried to bury in his final days

  1. Andy says:

    I read this post just after reading Mr. Hawkins post on the NRDC’s actions. If the NRDC wants to remain true to their mission, then they should have the guts to tell their membership that they’ve come to an agreement with major US companies that is guaranteed to destroy all of the wetlands (and natural beaches) on the east coast.

    There’s a time to sit down with folks who disagree with you and enjoy the cup of coffee or lunch they provide and then there’s a time to get up, walk out, and find another way.

  2. paulm says:

    “We cannot rule out that human-induced climate change will trigger such events in the future.

    This report is out of date already. They are happening now – like the Arctic melt.

    This is a problem, even the most qualified refuse to recognize how advance things are!

  3. Bob Wright says:

    Timing the release in the middle of a very 1950s winter is inspired, also. I’ll have to drop by my folks’ house and try to find my old ice skates. Been a long time, and might get a in couple days before the ice melts. My grown kids have never even seen anyone skating outside on natural ice. They wonder about the ancient hockey sticks hanging up in my Dad’s garage.

  4. P. G. Dudda says:

    Yes, I’m also amused by how easily folks are deceived by the occurrence of the first “normal”-ish winter in, oh, 15-20 years! Yet, 2 years ago, I saw people riding motorcycles in Minnesota… in FEBRUARY!

  5. Mark says:

    As a life long MN resident, I’ve seen more snowmobiles in the last month or so than I’ve seen in the last 15 years combined. We’ve had year after year of ice fishing contests canceled because of thin ice, but not this year!

    I agree, it’s a normal winter, but those with short memories think this is really something.

  6. Roger says:

    U.S. taxpayers have payed close to $20 billion dollars for the research work that has gone into this whole series of government reports, yet their frightening findings about the likely impact of climate disruption have barely seen the light of day. Even state climatologists seem unaware!

    We should pass a new law saying that Americans can’t get their tax refunds until they’ve read at least the executive summaries of these
    reports. Then, while the reports are freshly in mind, ask them to vote for a new fossil fuel tax to help accelerate the shift to climate-friendly energy.

    Barack should also read, then brief Americans on the reports’ findings.

  7. R. L. Vetter says:

    Wether or not the global earth is on a significant warming trend or is in a normal cycle is open to objective debate. To say that man-produced carbon dioxide is the the dominant cause of such a trend is what is really open for debate. The tragedy is that political decisons are being made without having the broad input of scientific study, interpretations and projections. The proponents have one to believe that only they have valid science……there are an equal or greater number of basic scientists with equally valid positions. What are the real truths. The old saying “follow the money”. Personally, I concur that we need all phases of legitimate conservation of our resources and move wisely towards all alternative energies…no one source is the answer. For 50 years, my research efforts have been directed towards the wise utilization of our wasted resources. I appreciate the opportunity to express my opinion…thank you.

  8. B. Ray says:

    We are heading for a human die off. Sorry to be so skeptical. No one likes to talk about it. We humans are instinctively just too greedy and selfish. The planet will be fine. What nature considers a temporary adjustment, (ice age, famine, large meteor impact) we all consider a crises “of biblical proportions.” We may not become exstinct. But the word “change” will not do justice to what will occur in during just several decades.

    Remember, in the lifetime of this planet we humans have only been around a few minutes (if that). Should we leave the party we will not have been around long enough to be missed.

    What I think is easy to predict is extended state of denial that will continue amongst the leading polluters (USA, China, India, tec.). We now have a devastating problem that governments will not even admit is occuring. And if they ever due will not be able to coordicate an effective and timely solution. This is the easiest “prediction” to make. Denial and debate will continue well into the ongoing negative climate phase and will doom millions.

    The affects of greed, corruption and stupidity (the words that best define the past adminsistration) are easiest to predict.

    We can’t borrow/spend/murder our way out of this one. Yet that is all the governments of the world are good at creating.

  9. Gregory Fegel says:

    It has not been proved that the recent increases in global temperature and CO2 levels have been caused by human activity. The fact is that the planet has been considerably warmer and CO2 levels have been much higher in the past. The recent warm period is more likely the result of the variations in solar output known as solar flares or sunspots, which correlate with both the recent warming and the even more recent cooling during the record-breaking winters of 2007-8 and 2008-9.

    Whatever the cause might be, suppose that global temperatures continued to rise as much as several degrees C over the next one or two hundred years. That would cause more polar ice to melt and sea levels to rise, which would indeed cause tremendous problems for coastal communities. Meanwhile, in the temperate zones, agriculture would be improved by a longer growing season, and the increase of CO2 would increase plant biomass throughgout the world….

    [JR: Everything you have written here is disinformation, long-debunked in the scientific literature, as I have blogged many times. The rest of you comment has been deleted as per my long-stated policy on long-debunked disinformation.]