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Trump on Monday said that he’s read some of the report and that “it’s fine,” but he doesn’t believe some of the analysis that predicts possible devastating effects on the economy.
Here are five things to know about the National Climate Assessment released last week.
What is the report?
The report released Friday is part of a series of reports published by the U.S. Global Change Research Program to analyze research on the impacts of climate change on the U.S., which Congress established in 1990. The research program consults with hundreds of subject matter experts from 13 federal agencies, state and local governments, and academic researchers. The experts look at the available research and models to write the comprehensive report and evaluate how confident they are in the findings.
The first volume of the report, the Climate Science Special Report released last year, was designed as an “authoritative assessment of the science of climate change” to inform policymakers and the public as they decide how to respond to climate change, according to the executive summary. The National Climate Assessment released last week looks more specifically at the impact of climate change in different parts of the U.S. and how local leaders are working to respond to those impacts.
The report concludes that “the evidence of human-caused climate change is overwhelming and continues to strengthen, that the impacts of climate change are intensifying across the country, and that climate-related threats to Americans’ physical, social, and economic well-being are rising.”
It also found that while Americans in some areas are working to limit the negative consequences of climate change none of the work being done “currently approach the scales needed to avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades.”
The White House said in a statement the report is “largely based on the most extreme scenario” and doesn’t account for reduced greenhouse gas emissions and new technologies that reduce pollution. Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters also said in a statement the White House wants more transparency in these reports.
The report went through an extensive process since 2016, including being posted for 60 days of public comment in January of this year and multiple rounds of review to incorporate comments from government agencies and other experts.
The version released publicly last week aims to make the information accessible to a broad audience but cites more than 6,000 unique references and consulted 300 different authors, according to the release.
Concerns the administration tried to bury it
Climate experts, researchers that worked on the report, activists, and Democratic lawmakers have raised concern that the Trump administration tried to bury the report by releasing it the day after Thanksgiving.
While the report still received widespread news coverage, critics say the timing combined with Trump’s track record on casting doubt on climate science and the administration’s push to reverse policies intended to combat climate change show the administration does not want to address the issue.
One of the editors of the report, World Resources Institute senior fellow Andrew Light, said the administration did not edit the findings of the report but they did decide when it would be released and the decision to publish it on Black Friday was irresponsible given the urgency of the subject matter.
“At the end of the day, this was simply not a responsible choice,” Light told ABC News’ Brad Mielke on the Start Here podcast.
In response to a recently released climate report from the United Nations, Trump said he does not think climate change is a “hoax” but he also cast doubt on some of the projections and even alluded that climate scientists are politically motivated.
Report found possibility for economic loss
The new National Climate Assessment builds on some findings from previous reports, such as the threat of flooding from sea level rise and more premature deaths attributed to extreme heat.
But the report also incorporated more information on the economic impacts of climate change and found that disruptive extreme weather events, rising temperatures, and the impacts of climate change in other countries could all damage the U.S. economy. For example, hotter temperatures could make power plants less efficient while demand for electricity goes up, resulting in higher costs for electricity.
Without more focus on adapting to climate change, the report found that as temperatures continue to rise it could lead to hundreds of billions of dollars in losses every year in damage to coastal properties, costs associated with heat-related deaths, and lost labor hours from extreme temperatures.
Climate impacts already being felt, but not equally
The impacts of climate change are already being felt in many communities, but they don’t look the same in every community.
Climate change poses more risks to communities that are already vulnerable because they don’t have the resources to prepare or adapt to harm from extreme weather, changes in temperature, or other disruptions to infrastructure and the economy.
But some parts of the country are more at risk than others.
In Alaska, for example, more infrastructure is being damaged when the layer of frozen ground called the permafrost thaws. Factors that kill trees and plants like longer droughts and higher temperatures are exacerbating wildfires in Alaska and other western states like California, where wildfires are especially costly.
Along the coasts, the report says climate change poses more of an economic risk since $1 trillion in national wealth is in coastal real estate. Rising sea levels, higher storm surges, and increases in flooding during high tide will threaten those properties and lead to more costs to preserve infrastructure on the coast, as well as potentially displace families that live there.
The report also references the possible impact of climate change on tourism from reduced snowpack, which affects areas in the western part of the country and the Northeast where tourist activities rely on natural snow and ice. In the Northeast especially the report says those activities “may not be economically viable” by the end of the century unless greenhouse gas emissions are significantly reduced. Outdoor recreation could also be impacted in areas where smoke from worsening wildfires cause poor air quality.
Will the report change anything?
The report intentionally does not recommend specific policies, but notes many observations for lawmakers to consider and highlights some examples of policies intended to limit the problems caused by climate change.
Most significantly the report says that even though natural gas and renewable energy have replaced fossil fuels in many areas, “more immediate and substantial” reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are needed to avoid the most severe, long-term consequences.
The Trump administration and Republican leadership in Congress have not signaled plans to take broad action on climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But high-ranking Democrats on committees that deal with federal environmental policy have said they plan intensive oversight of the Trump administration’s decisions to roll back policies intended to combat climate change when the new legislative session starts in January.
Democrats will likely call for administration officials to defend the president’s call to reduce regulations, roll back policies proposed by the Obama administration to aggressively combat climate change, and allow more energy production on federal land.
Congress is also expected to take up a spending bill that would allocate billions of dollars for infrastructure projects. The report says that aging infrastructure around the country is stressed extreme weather events and overall is not prepared for a changing climate.
National and local lawmakers could consider the findings of the report when deciding how much to spend on projects like repairing roads and bridges or updating water systems.