The Trump administration is reportedly delaying work on a congressionally mandated climate change report, the latest example of President Donald Trump digging in on climate change denial ahead of the 2020 election.
The administration is behind schedule in putting out a call for scientists to produce the Fifth National Climate Assessment, E&E News reported Monday.
“It’s not being approved to go out, so therefore they’re just sitting on it,” Donald Wuebbles, a climate scientist at the University of Illinois and co-author of the fourth version of the report published in 2018, told E&E.
The in-depth federal assessments, due every four years, look at the devastating consequences of the rapidly unfolding climate crisis. The Trump administration tried to bury the last study in 2018 by releasing it the day after the Thanksgiving holiday.
That report concluded that global temperatures are “rising more rapidly than anything modern civilization has experienced” and that “this warming trend can only be explained by human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.”
It also found that without drastic cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions, temperatures in the U.S. could warm between 3 and 9 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100.
At the time, administration officials dismissed the findings as “radical,” “not data-driven” and based on “worst scenarios.” Trump outright rejected the science, saying “I don’t believe it.”
Trump’s brazen attack on climate science has ramped up ahead of the November election. Along with falsely claiming that the climate “will start getting cooler,” Trump has tapped at least three climate contrarians for top-level positions at the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Among them is David Legates, a University of Delaware climatology professor and close affiliate of the climate-denying Heartland Institute who has claimed, among other things, that rising atmospheric CO2 is good for the planet. Sources close to the White House told E&E News that Legates was brought in specifically to shape the upcoming federal climate report.
The effort to slow-walk the next report comes as Exxon Mobil Corp., the largest U.S. oil and gas producer, plans to ramp up drilling, according to leaked documents Bloomberg obtained. The company’s projected greenhouse gases would surge as a result, just as rival oil giants are vowing to cut output and set a course for net-zero emissions in the coming decades.
It’s unclear whether the White House’s delay in summoning scientists for the next national climate assessment would hinder their ability to render an accurate picture of how climate change could upend life across the United States. Scientists are already running models and performing studies, but the federal report represents the collective findings of climate researchers across disciplines. Its complexity is comparable only to the reports the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issues each year.
Unlike the U.N. report, the federal assessment provides detailed forecasts by U.S. regions, offering scientists and policymakers a vital tool for adapting to the already chaotic uptick in fires, droughts and violent storms.
“That’s something the IPCC doesn’t do, so it’s very, very valuable,” said Steven Davis, an earth system scientist at the University of California, Davis. “Hopefully this won’t stymie the scientists.”
The White House did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment Monday.
The move to interfere with a timely fifth report signals how the pro-fossil fuel Trump administration is likely to approach the threat of climate change if the president is elected to a second term and no longer has to consider the concerns of American voters, a growing majority of whom are worried about the climate crisis.
Trump could ultimately revive a suspended initiative to recruit scientists to challenge the all-but-irrefutable consensus that planetary warming is an immediate threat driven by the burning of fossil fuels. William Happer, a retired Princeton University physics professor and seasoned climate change denier who tried unsuccessfully to establish such a panel before leaving the Trump administration last September, previously told E&E that the president expressed interest in conducting the review after the election.
“This is just the wrong timing,” Happer said Trump told him. “This is on hold, we’re not going to abandon it.”