President Donald Trump and his Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief are both angry that the government’s newly released climate report includes an accurate analysis of their own disastrously bad climate policies.
Andrew Wheeler, acting administrator of the EPA, which vetted and signed off on the report, went so far as to issue a press release Wednesday evening falsely claiming that the Obama administration had pushed a “worst-case scenario” in the congressionally mandated National Climate Assessment (NCA).
The criticism is absurd for three reasons. First, the Trump team controlled and vetted virtually every aspect of this report — Volume 2 of the NCA — that they are now complaining about.
“The vast majority of Volume 2 was drafted, reviewed, and finalized under this administration, not under Obama,” as Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, one of the report’s authors, pointed out in an email to ThinkProgress.
Second, “Contrary to their assertions, the report does not focus primarily on a ‘worst-case’ or ‘most extreme’ scenario,” explained Hayhoe, who is co-director of Texas Tech’s Climate Science Center.
The NCA includes a variety of scenarios modeling different levels of climate action on curbing carbon pollution — strong, modest, and no action — the same as every other major national and global climate report has used for decades.
Third — and most ironic of all — the scenario that the administration labels “worst-case” is nothing more than a modeling of Trump’s do-nothing climate policies.
It is the Trump administration that is the only major government in the world to announce its withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, currently the world’s only hope for avoiding the catastrophe of business-as-usual emissions.
And it is the Trump administration that is pursuing policies to increase the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas while gutting efforts to advance clean energy.
In fact, the administration is so indifferent to a livable climate — so indifferent to the health and well-being of our children and grandchildren — that they simply take for granted that we are headed to a disastrously high level of warming, 7°F (4°C) above pre-industrial global temperatures.
For instance, in a 500-page environmental impact statement released in August to justify rolling back Obama-era fuel-economy standards for cars and light trucks, the Trump team simply assumed that Earth will warm 7°F by century’s end.
In what is effectively an entirely new level of climate denial, the government in its impact assessment assumed that this extreme level of warming can’t be stopped, and so freezing car standards at 2020 levels simply won’t matter much.
The NCA makes clear that such an outcome is not inevitable, although avoiding such levels requires going far beyond the actions agreed to under the Paris accord, which Trump has already rejected.
But this reality didn’t stop Trump from saying Monday he didn’t “believe” the findings of his own administration’s report.
It didn’t stop White House Spokeswoman Lindsay Walters from falsely asserting in an emailed statement to reporters that the NCA “is largely based on the most extreme scenario, which contradicts long-established trends….”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders repeated this claim at a press briefing Tuesday, asserting the NCA “is based on the most extreme model scenario, which contradicts long-established trends.” (Sanders’ false claims were fact-checked live by CNN at the time.)
Again, the scenario the White House is complaining about is simply business as usual emissions — and it’s precisely the scenario the administration itself thinks is inevitable.
What’s more, the scenario is not scientifically controversial. Quite the reverse, as explained in a December 2017 study in the journal Nature, “Greater future global warming inferred from Earth’s recent energy budget.”
The study’s co-author, climatologist Ken Caldeira, told the UK Independent at the time, “Our study indicates that if emissions follow a commonly used business-as-usual scenario, there is a 93 per cent chance that global warming will exceed 4°C by the end of this century.”
The recent remarks on the NCA by President Trump, the White House, and the former coal lobbyist who is now leading the EPA, make clear this administration literally has no idea what they are doing on climate change — and they don’t care.
That is a worst-case scenario for the nation and the world.