A not-yet-released federal report on climate change finds that humans are already witnessing the effects of a warming globe — and the report’s authors are fearing that the White House will intervene before it’s published.
The average temperature in the United States has risen rapidly and drastically since 1980, with the most recent years being the warmest of the past 1,500 years, according to a previous draft of the special science section of the National Climate Assessment published by The New York Times Monday.
The draft posted by the Times was the third draft and was previously posted for public review between December 2016 and February 2017. CNN is told the version of the draft that is awaiting Trump administration approval has since been revised twice, although the main findings of the report are still in line with the findings in this older version of the draft.
The report was reviewed by scientists from 13 federal agencies and concludes that Americans are already feeling the effects of climate change.
“Evidence for a changing climate abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans,” that draft report reads.
A White House official said it will “withhold comment on any draft report before its scheduled release date.”
The assessment is mandated through the 1990 Global Change Research Act. Lead scientists pull together the report and it goes through several rounds of comments, including a critique by the National Academy of Sciences earlier this year.
In that review, NAS said the draft report “is impressive, timely and generally well-written,” and cited its “breadth, accuracy and rigor.”
However, scientists involved in the current report are wary that the findings of the final report may not see the light of day.
“We’re in some uncharted waters here,” said an author of the report who asked not to be named. “It’s either going to become an official U.S. government report, or it won’t be, in which case we would have to find another outlet for it.”
The author said that in gathering the report, their guidelines were “to provide our best assessment to the present state of knowledge and literature on science itself.”
The fear about the final destination of the years-long report comes from the overall message emanating from the Trump administration.
“We have yet to see any pushback, there’s been no muzzling, but the uncertainty comes from an obvious place,” the author said. “If the administration is backing out of the Paris agreement and there’s not a strong backing of the idea of human caused climate change, then our report will most surely come into conflict with some of those stated ideas.”
Andy Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the fear is not necessarily a new one.
“The process has continued to go along. There hasn’t been any change in the time line of the process, but given the statements from the administration and from administration officials, there’s concern that [the report] will either be edited or held back,” he said.
Rosenberg has been previously involved in authoring another part of the National Climate Assessment and said the threat to the findings is very real.
“They could hold back the report, they could in some way modify the conclusions — it’s a government report, technically they have the power. Whether they have the right is the question,” he said. “The Global Change Research Act says there has to be a report but the timing isn’t mandated in the law.”