Trump administration downplays major climate change report as ‘worst-case scenario’ after president dismisses warnings

Scientists say there is 'no truth whatsoever' in claims major report exaggerated impact of global warming

Josh Gabbatiss
Science Correspondent
Saturday 01 December 2018 14:31 GMT
Sarah Sanders: 'Climate change report is not based on facts'

Trump officials are downplaying the dire warnings issued by his government’s own climate change report by claiming it depicts a worst-case scenario.

White House representatives assert that despite the weight of evidence, the conclusions reached by hundreds of top climate scientists are unlikely to become a reality.

Some have even suggested that the Obama administration had a hand in exaggerating the results seen in the National Climate Assessment.

Donald Trump himself has said he does not believe his own government’s report, and that air and water in the US are at “record clean”.

Climate scientists have repeatedly emphasised that the assessment looked at a range of future scenarios, and is based on the most up-to-date science available.

The report found that based on emissions growing at historic rates, financial losses in some sectors would reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century.

Droughts, wildfires and flooding are all expected to increase in frequency in the coming decades across the US due to climate change.

The assessment also predicted thousands of additional deaths every year due to heat stress and the spread of infectious diseases into areas that would formerly have been too cold for the mosquitos and ticks that carry them.

But since its publication, White House officials have pushed back against the warnings of severe impacts for every area from healthcare to fisheries.

“If you take the extreme case, you’re right, it’s dire… If you take the best case, it’s not much,” Trump’s interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, said on Fox News.

Comparing the likelihood of the extreme outcomes outlined by experts to the threat of nuclear war, Mr Zinke pointed out that people were not “going to go home to a bunker and wear a hazardous suit”.

These comments echo the official line from the White House released in the aftermath of the report last week.

“We think that this is the most extreme version and it’s not based on facts … it’s not data-driven,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Tuesday.

Acting Environmental Protection Agency administrator Andrew Wheeler went even further, stating the report “was drafted at the direction of the Obama administration” and he “wouldn’t be surprised if the Obama administration told the report’s authors to take a look at the worst-case scenario for this report”.

The authors of the report stated that any risk assessment of the kind carried out in their analysis involved looking at a range of scenarios, and the doubts being expressed by critics were misguided.

In fact, Pennsylvania University climate scientist Professor Michael Mann said that the reality of climate science was that the impacts have often been underestimated rather than exaggerated.

“Sea levels are rising faster, ice is disappearing sooner and the incidence of extreme weather events is increasing faster than our projections from just a few years ago suggested,” he told The Guardian.

He said there was “no truth whatsoever” in the claim that the report was being overly pessimistic about the future under global warming in the US.

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

With a major climate summit taking beginning in Poland this weekend, the UN warned on Tuesday that nations must increase their commitments to cutting carbon emissions by five times to avoid the worst effects of global warming.

In October the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change announced “unprecedented” changes to every aspect of human life will be required to keep warming below the ambitious 1.5C target included in the Paris climate agreement.

However, far from tacking the problem, the US president has made his scepticism about climate change clear and announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

With an emphasis on “beautiful, clean coal”, the Trump administration instead seeks to promote fossil fuel operations in the US.

Wildfires have scorched much of California in recent weeks, and many experts have made the link between rising global temperatures and the increased risk of such events.

Mr Trump has said he believes that the fires are not connected with climate change, and that better forest management, including raking leaves, would reduce the chances of wildfire.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in