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What’s in the Climate Report the Trump Administration Doesn’t Want You to Read?
As families across the U.S. gathered together to enjoy Thanksgiving weekend, the government released an urgent report on climate change Friday, warning that human-caused global warming could have dire consequences for American lives and livelihoods.
"Earth's climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities," the report begins. "The impacts of global climate change are already being felt in the United States and are projected to intensify in the future—but the severity of future impacts will depend largely on actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the changes that will occur."
The report marks volume II of the Fourth National Climate Assessment, the work of 1,000 people, 300 top scientists and 13 federal agencies operating under the auspices of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, CNN reported. The report's clear and urgent message on climate change runs counter to President Trump's climate denialism and decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement to keep global temperatures "well below" two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Director of the Technical Support Unit at the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information David Easterling told CNN there was "no external interference in the report's development," but some speculated the report's content was why the administration chose to release the report on Friday, when Americans would be distracted by the biggest shopping day of the year, as EcoWatch reported.
The report was originally scheduled to be released in December at a large scientific conference, and its early release took its authors by surprise, The Atlantic reported. But Climate Central reporter John Upton tweeted that any attempt to bury the news "backfired."
"The news is everywhere," Upton wrote Saturday. "After details of the plan leaked, the government confirmed the release in advance, giving outlets time to prepare. And yesterday was a slow news day."
So what's in the report that the Trump administration doesn't want you to read? Here are some key takeaways.
1. Climate Change Kills
The report found that in the Midwest, the region projected to see the biggest temperature increase, 2,000 more people could die a year by 2090 because of heat waves, CNN reported. Any decrease in deaths due to warmer winters will be offset in most regions by an increase in deaths due to warmer summers, Vox reported. Other health hazards that will increase due to climate change include mosquito and tick-borne diseases and air pollution due to an increase in wildfires.
The report's findings on wildfires, which it says could burn up to six times more forested area by 2050, are especially timely in light of the Camp Fire that has now killed at least 85 people in Northern California, as USA Today reported Sunday.
2. It's the Economy, Stupid
Trump's argument for withdrawing from the Paris agreement centered around the idea that it would hurt the U.S. economy, but climate change could cost the U.S. more than 10 percent of its GDP by 2100 in the worst-case-scenario, CNN reported. Climate change will devastate agriculture and fisheries. Some Midwest farmers will grow less than 75 percent of the corn they produce today, and the shellfish industry could see a $230 million loss by 2100 because of ocean acidification. On the flip slide, rapidly reducing fossil fuel use could actually raise the country billions of dollars in benefits.
3. Environmental Injustice
As usual, the report found that low-income and marginalized communities would suffer the worst health and economic impacts from climate change, The Guardian reported. This includes indigenous communities, as the report explained in its summary of key findings:
Many Indigenous peoples are reliant on natural resources for their economic, cultural, and physical well-being and are often uniquely affected by climate change. The impacts of climate change on water, land, coastal areas, and other natural resources, as well as infrastructure and related services, are expected to increasingly disrupt Indigenous peoples' livelihoods and economies, including agriculture and agroforestry, fishing, recreation, and tourism. Adverse impacts on subsistence activities have already been observed. As climate changes continue, adverse impacts on culturally significant species and resources are expected to result in negative physical and mental health effects.
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"The rapid pace of labour-saving technology brings into focus the possibility of a shorter working week for all, if deployed properly," Autonomy Director Will Stronge said, The Guardian reported. "However, while automation shows that less work is technically possible, the urgent pressures on the environment and on our available carbon budget show that reducing the working week is in fact necessary."
The report found that if the economies of Germany, Sweden and the UK maintain their current levels of carbon intensity and productivity, they would need to switch to a six, 12 and nine hour work week respectively if they wanted keep the rise in global temperatures to the below two degrees Celsius promised by the Paris agreement, The Independent reported.
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"We welcome this attempt by Autonomy to grapple with the very real changes society will need to make in order to live within the limits of the planet," Emma Williams of the Four Day Week campaign said in a statement reported by The Independent. "In addition to improved well-being, enhanced gender equality and increased productivity, addressing climate change is another compelling reason we should all be working less."
Supporters of the idea linked it to calls in the U.S. and Europe for a Green New Deal that would decarbonize the economy while promoting equality and well-being.
"This new paper from Autonomy is a thought experiment that should give policymakers, activists and campaigners more ballast to make the case that a Green New Deal is absolutely necessary," Common Wealth think tank Director Mat Lawrence told The Independent. "The link between working time and GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions has been proved by a number of studies. Using OECD data and relating it to our carbon budget, Autonomy have taken the step to show what that link means in terms of our working weeks."
Stronge also linked his report to calls for a Green New Deal.
"Becoming a green, sustainable society will require a number of strategies – a shorter working week being just one of them," he said, according to The Guardian. "This paper and the other nascent research in the field should give us plenty of food for thought when we consider how urgent a Green New Deal is and what it should look like."
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