EDITORIAL: Cold truths on global warming
It's a strategy that everyone on either side of the news business knows.
If you have to say something that you don't want people to hear, save it for a Friday afternoon. Better yet, the Friday of a holiday weekend.
So it should be no surprise that the Trump administration chose to release a dire report on climate change late in the day on Nov. 23, Black Friday.
The fourth National Climate Assessment says everything the president doesn't want to hear about climate change:
- Warming-charged extremes “have already become more frequent, intense, widespread or of long duration.”
- Losses from climate change events will cost the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars annually by the end of the century.
- More than 90 percent of the current warming is caused by humans.
Much of the report covers ground that scientists have been tilling for years, but now those climate scientists are able to point at events and say, "We forecast this."
“We are seeing the things we said would be happening, happen now in real life,” said report co-author Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University. “As a climate scientist it is almost surreal.”
Warmer and drier conditions mean massive wildfires through the West. Warmer oceans mean more powerful and more frequent hurricanes. Rising sea levels mean higher storm surges.
Just ask the people of California, where deadly fires have enveloped much of the state in smoke.
Or the people of Florida, where the death toll from last month's Hurricane Michael continues to rise.
Or the people of North Carolina, where September's Hurricane Florence caused around $45 billion in damage, according to Insurance Business.
Or the people of eastern York County, where downpours in late summer destroyed roads and bridges and left homes and businesses flooded.
Extreme weather in the U.S. has cost about $400 billion since 2015, according to the National Climate Assessment.
And it will only get worse, the report says. The 29 chapters and five appendices go into detail about the effect climate change has on everything from air quality to disease to agriculture to transportation.
"The potential for losses in some sectors could reach hundreds of billions of dollars per year by the end of this century," the report said. It added that if emissions of heat-trapping gases continue at current levels, labor costs in outdoor industries during heat waves could cost $155 billion in lost wages per year by 2090.
The report then goes a step farther than the previous three NCAs by making it personal and pointing out what will happen in local areas.
“All climate change is local,” said Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Richard Alley, who wasn’t part of the report but praised it. “We live in our drought, our floods and our heat waves. That means we have to focus on us.”
And yet, for one person, the dire warnings, forecasts and verified accounts in the scientific report mean nothing.
"I don't believe it," President Donald Trump said Monday about the economic impacts of climate change outlined in the NCA.
Sadly, it's not surprising that Trump would reject the report. Just last week, when visiting the scene of devastating fires in California, the president said the fires didn't change his opinion on climate change. He continues to throw support behind fossil fuel industries, which continue to throw greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
The NCA is required by Congress every four years, and work was well underway when Trump took office in 2017.
The administration did everything it could to lessen the impact the report could have by releasing it, quietly, on Black Friday, with a short statement. It would seem Trump hasn't read it and has no intention of doing so.
But it spells out cold truths that the administration is doing its best to cover up: Global climate change is happening, it's affecting our country, and we are the reason it's happening.