On November 3, the Trump administration released an extensive “Climate Science Special Report.” The report is comprised of a comprehensive Executive Summary, introducing 15 detailed chapters, each with numerous charts, graphs, and supporting data; six appendices are also included. I have read the 8,500-word Executive Summary and did a cursory review of the chapters. All this can be found on science2017.globalchange.gov.
On a personal note, I’m convinced there are readers who will still deny the report and the key points I have provided below and perhaps even “guffaw.” One argument many readers may cling to is this: “We have had worse conditions multi-million years ago, so there is no need to worry.”
To these people my response is this. The circumstances of those events multi-million years ago do not apply today as there were no humans on the planet during those ages; hence, there was no highly sophisticated socio-economic global society at risk. Because of man’s unrelenting industrial era actions, our complex international society is now facing a multitude of difficult and intense challenges. More than anything, I consider ignoring this massive problem as immoral and unconscionable, imposed upon 7.5 billion souls.
As such, the situation is dire, and now is the time to unite as a single global community. We must address this monumental problem with courage and conviction and not retreat into the ignorance of a national silo of selfishness and greed, continuing to deny the obvious and glaring scientific evidence. Pulling away from an international climate agreement, calling bona fide science a hoax, and disallowing science-based governmental agencies from using the words “climate change” within their literature or by their employees, is a disgraceful lack of leadership.
My rough estimate is that the entire report entails 100,000 words. As best as I could, I used only 1,000 words to summarize the key points therein.
I invite you to read on.
Based on extensive evidence, it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.
Since the last report was published, 2014 became the warmest year on record globally, 2015 surpassed 2014 by a wide margin, and 2016 surpassed 2015. Sixteen of the warmest years on record for the globe occurred in the last 17 years.
Annual average temperature over the contiguous United States has increased by 1.8°F for the period 1901–2016.
Annual average temperature over the contiguous United States has increased by 1.2°F for the period 1986–2016.
Increases of about 2.5°F are projected for the period 2021–2050.
Without major reductions in the emissions of greenhouse gases, the increase in annual average global temperatures relative to pre-industrial times could reach 9°F by the end of this century.
The number of high temperature records set in the past two decades far exceeds the number of low temperature records.
The frequency of cold waves has decreased since the early 1900s, and the frequency of heat waves has increased since the mid-1960s.
The frequency and intensity of extreme heat and heavy precipitation events are increasing in most continental regions of the world.
Heavy precipitation events in most parts of the United States have increased in both intensity and frequency since 1901.
The frequency and intensity of extreme high temperature events are virtually certain to increase in the future as global temperature increases.
Extreme precipitation events will very likely continue to increase in frequency and intensity throughout most of the world.
Cold waves are predicted to become less intense while heat waves will become more intense.
The number of days below freezing is projected to decline while the number above 90°F will rise.
Shifts to more precipitation falling as rain rather than snow in the cold season.
Earlier spring melt and reduced snow water equivalent have been formally attributed to human-induced warming.
Long-duration hydrological drought is increasingly possible by the end of this century.
Future decreases in surface soil moisture from human activities over most of the United States are likely.
The incidence of large forest fires in the western United States and Alaska has increased since the early 1980s.
Both physics and numerical modeling simulations generally indicate an increase in tropical cyclone intensity in a warmer world, and the models generally show an increase in the number of very intense tropical cyclones. The frequency of the most intense of these storms is projected to increase in the Atlantic.
Understanding the full scope of human impacts on climate requires a global focus because of the interconnected nature of the climate system. For example, the climate of the arctic and the climate of the continental United States are connected through atmospheric circulation patterns.
The arctic is warming at a rate approximately twice as fast as the global average and, if it continues to warm at the same rate, Septembers will be nearly ice-free in the Arctic Ocean sometime between now and the 2040s.
Changes in the tropics can also impact the rest of the globe, including the United States. There is growing evidence that the tropics have expanded pole-ward by about 70 to 200 miles in each hemisphere over the period 1979–2009.
Oceans host unique ecosystems and species, including those important for global commercial and subsistence fishing. Understanding climate impacts on the ocean and the ocean’s feedbacks to the climate system is critical for a comprehensive understanding of current and future changes in climate.
The world’s oceans have absorbed about 93 percent of the excess heat caused by greenhouse gas warming since the mid-20th century, making them warmer and altering global and regional climate feedbacks.
Ocean heat content has increased at all depths since the 1960s and surface waters have warmed by about 1.3° per century globally since 1900 to 2016.
Global mean sea level (GMSL) has risen by about 7–8 inches since 1900, with about 3 of those inches occurring since 1993.
Relative to the year 2000, GMSL is very likely to rise by 0.3–0.6 feet by 2030, 0.5–1.2 feet by 2050, and 1.0–4.3 feet by 2100.
As sea levels have risen, the number of tidal floods each year that cause minor impacts have increased 5- to 10-fold since the 1960s.
Assuming storm characteristics do not change, sea level rise will increase the frequency and extent of extreme flooding associated with coastal storms, such as hurricanes and nor’easters.
The world’s oceans are currently absorbing more than a quarter of the CO2 emitted to the atmosphere annually from human activities, making them more acidic, with detrimental impacts to marine ecosystems.
The rate of acidification is unparalleled in at least the past 66 million years.
Residents of Alaska are on the front lines of climate change. Crumbling infrastructure and eroding shorelines are commonplace.
Rising Alaskan permafrost temperatures are causing permafrost to thaw and become more discontinuous; this process releases additional carbon dioxide and methane resulting in additional warming.
Alaskan and Greenland glaciers have lost mass over the last 50 years, with each year since 1984 showing an annual average ice mass less than the previous year.
Global mean atmospheric CO2 concentration has now passed 400 ppm, a level that last occurred about 3 million years ago.
Humanity’s effect on the Earth system, through the large-scale combustion of fossil fuels and widespread deforestation and the resulting release of CO2 into the atmosphere, as well as through emissions of other greenhouse gases and radiatively active substances from human activities, is unprecedented.
Unanticipated or impossible-to-manage changes in the climate system are possible throughout the next century as critical thresholds are crossed or multiple climate-related extreme events occur simultaneously.
The physical and socio-economic 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.
Friends and neighbors, let’s flush the politics, work together, and courageously embrace all humanity … especially for the future of our children.
Steve Hogseth, Kanab
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