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Climate Science Special Report

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U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) on November 3, 2017 released Climate Science Special Report Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4), Volume I, which is “an authoritative assessment of the science of climate change, with a focus on the United States.” This Federal climate report was well into its review phase when the current President took office, which made it difficult for the Administration to stop, slow or subvert the process.

The Facts:

Highlights from the Executive Summary are:

  • “The global, long-term, and unambiguous warming trend has continued during recent years.
  • The magnitude of climate change beyond the next few decades will depend primarily on the amount of greenhouse (heat-trapping) gases emitted globally and on the remaining uncertainty in the sensitivity of Earth’s climate to those emissions (very high confidence).
  • Many lines of evidence demonstrate that it is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.
  • Recent data add to the weight of evidence for rapid global-scale warming, the dominance of human causes, and the expected continuation of increasing temperatures, including more record-setting extremes.
  • Many temperature and precipitation extremes are becoming more common.
  • Recent droughts and associated heat waves have reached record intensity in some regions of the United States.
  • The frequency and intensity of extreme high temperature events are virtually certain to increase in the future as global temperature increases (high confidence).
  • Extreme precipitation events will very likely continue to increase in frequency and intensity throughout most of the world (high confidence).
  • The incidence of large forest fires in the western United States and Alaska has increased since the early 1980s (high confidence) and is projected to further increase in those regions as the climate warms, with profound changes to certain ecosystems (medium confidence).
  • Oceans are rising, warming and becoming more acidic.
  • Global mean sea level (GMSL) has risen by about 7–8 inches since 1900, with about 3 of those inches occurring since 1993 (very high confidence).
  • Human-caused climate change has made a substantial contribution to GMSL rise since 1900 (high confidence), contributing to a rate of rise that is greater than during any preceding century in at least 2,800 years (medium confidence).
  • As sea levels have risen, the number of tidal floods each year that cause minor impacts (also called “nuisance floods”) have increased 5- to 10-fold since the 1960s in several U.S. coastal cities (very high confidence). Rates of increase are accelerating in over 25 Atlantic and Gulf Coast cities (very high confidence). Tidal flooding will continue increasing in depth, frequency, and extent this century (very high confidence).
  • Limiting globally averaged warming to 2°C (3.6°F) will require major reductions in emissionsHuman activities are now the dominant cause of the observed trends in climate.
  • Humanity’s effect on the Earth system, through the large-scale combustion of fossil fuels and widespread deforestation and the resulting release of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, as well as through emissions of other greenhouse gases and radiatively active substances from human activities, is unprecedented.
  • There are at least two types of potential surprises: compound events, where multiple extreme climate events occur simultaneously or sequentially (creating greater overall impact), and critical threshold or tipping point events, where some threshold is crossed in the climate system (that leads to large impacts).
  • The probability of such surprises—some of which may be abrupt and/or irreversible—as well as other more predictable but difficult-to-manage impacts, increases as the influence of human activities on the climate system increases.
  • The physical and socioeconomic impacts of compound extreme events (such as simultaneous heat and drought, wildfires associated with hot and dry conditions, or flooding associated with high precipitation on top of snow or waterlogged ground) can be greater than the sum of the parts (very high confidence).”

President Nixon signed National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) into law in 1970. NEPA declared a national policy of encouraging productive harmony between man and his environment. The law is further intended to: promote efforts to prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of man; and to enrich the understanding of the ecological systems and natural resources important to the Nation. How could the Republican party have changed so much?

We now have a Republican in the White House who has yet to chose anyone to head the Office of Science and Technology Policy and who labels climate change a hoax. We are told the liberal, “fake news” media is exaggerating the situation and we can renegotiate a better agreement – and die-hard supporters agree with this approach and the messenger, in spite of the facts! “Even if global warming were judged to be true, it’s just not a priority…”

How to Talk with a Conservative about Climate Change

Social psychologists tell us we’re not likely to change the opinions and actions of Republican politicians by merely re-emphasizing the facts or even the consequences of inaction in reducing greenhouse gases.

“In order to convince opinion leaders outside the so-called “left-wing ghetto” that global warming is an urgent issue, campaigners need to speak a different language. And that might mean not invoking “green” values at all.”

Perhaps it would be more effective to emphasize “the potential to cut billions of dollars of energy from sectors like aviation, railroads, power generation and oil and gas development.”

“An army official, however, might describe climate change as a “threat multiplier.”

“For the Vatican, global warming obliges us to protect “the vulnerable of the Earth.”

“City planners see a challenge of ‘urban resilience.'”

“Farmers worry about ‘diminished crop yields.'”

“Parents want the ‘best future possible’ for their children and grandchildren.”

“And this may be the most important insight of all, that a warmer climate is not just an environmental issue, but something with profound cultural implications for everybody.”

“Conservative morality tends to emphasize questions of “loyalty/betrayal” (staying true to your cultural group), “authority/subversion” (upholding long-held institutions) and “sanctity/degradation” (fending off defilement).

Conservative are not ignorant or stupid, but they are psychologically wired differently than liberals. Valuing relationships, showing humility and respect are keys to better communication and more positive responses.

This is not going to be easy…


Sources Used in the USGCRP Report:

The USGCRP is made up of 13 Federal departments and agencies that carry out research and support the Nation’s response to global change. The USGCRP is overseen by the Subcommittee on Global Change Research (SGCR) of the National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Sustainability (CENRS), which in turn was overseen by Presiden Barack Obama’s White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

The agencies within USGCRP are the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Commerce (NOAA), the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of the Interior, the Department of State, the Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, the Smithsonian Institution, and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Wuebbles, D.J., D.W. Fahey, K.A. Hibbard, B. DeAngelo, S. Doherty, K. Hayhoe, R. Horton, J.P. Kossin, P.C. Taylor, A.M. Waple, and C.P. Weaver, 2017: Executive summary. In: Climate Science Special Report: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume I [Wuebbles, D.J., D.W. Fahey, K.A. Hibbard, D.J. Dokken, B.C. Stewart, and T.K. Maycock (eds.)]. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, USA, pp. 12-34, doi: 10.7930/J0DJ5CTG.

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