It’s Official: Climate Change is Real and It’s Serious

The Administration allowed a key scientific report to come out. They’ll have trouble explaining it away.

The release of the Fourth National Climate Assessment got some attention from the press.  The press mostly focused on the forthright endorsement of climate science by the NCA4 report — something of a surprise in the anti-science Trump Administration.  That was indeed notable, but there are other features of the report that will make it harder for the Administration to get away legally with ignoring or downplaying climate change.

The endorsement of climate science was striking enough.  Here’s what NCA4 says:

‘This assessment concludes, based on extensive evidence, that 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. For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence.’

But NCA4 also has some significant things to say about the effects of climate change.  On sea level rise:

“For example, global average sea level has risen by about 7–8 inches since 1900, with almost half (about 3 inches) of that rise occurring since 1993. Human-caused climate change has made a substantial contribution to this rise since 1900, contributing to a rate of rise that is greater than during any preceding century in at least 2,800 years. Global sea level rise has already affected the United States; the incidence of daily tidal flooding is accelerating in more than 25 Atlantic and Gulf Coast cities. Global average sea levels are expected to continue to rise—by at least several inches in the next 15 years and by 1–4 feet by 2100. A rise of as much as 8 feet by 2100 cannot be ruled out. Sea level rise will be higher than the global average on the East and Gulf Coasts of the United States.”

Temperature increases and heatwaves are also discussed:

“Heatwaves have become more frequent in the United States since the 1960s, while extreme cold temperatures and cold waves are less frequent. Recent record-setting hot years are projected to become common in the near future for the United States, as annual average temperatures continue to rise. Annual average temperature over the contiguous United States has increased by 1.8°F (1.0°C) for the period 1901–2016; over the next few decades (2021–2050), annual average temperatures are expected to rise by about 2.5°F for the United States, relative to the recent past (average from 1976–2005), under all plausible future climate scenarios.”

The report also devotes attention to fires, floods  and droughts, but I’ve probably already burdened you with enough quotations.

Here’s why this matters.  Consistency doesn’t make much difference politically, it would seem. But it does matter legally.  Whenever the Trump Administration tries to justify any administrative action by saying climate change is uncertain or won’t have serious effects on the United States, it will have to explain away this report issued by top scientists on Trump’s watch.  That’s not going to be easy to do, and as a result the Administration will face a heightened risk of having its actions overturned as arbitrary and capricious. Even EPA’s science advisory boards, which Pruitt recently packed with industry and ideological hacks, will have a hard time explaining this report away.

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Reader Comments

8 Replies to “It’s Official: Climate Change is Real and It’s Serious”

  1. “Consistency doesn’t make much difference politically, it would seem. But it does matter legally.”

    This report may be added to the mountains of evidence that should be used to establish liability for willful injury to victims of carbon emissions and climate change (e.g., infant mortality, lung disease, cancer, viral epidemics, diminished natural resources and wildlife, drought, wildfires, extreme weather events, etc., etc., etc.). Big Tobacco eventually faced its liability. It’s way past time for the fossil fuel industry to face theirs.

    1. ANSWER/FACT OF LIFE: Linus Pauling won the Nobel Peace Prize and went on to champion protests against the Viet Nam War while he was at UCSD in the 60s. In 1969 he was forced to leave UC because of Ike’s warning in his Farewell Address that exposed the fact that too many scholars were indentured to the Military-Industrial complex.

      REF: The “Life of Linus Pauling” by Thomas Hager, and as reported in an LA Times book review “The Price of Doing Things His Own Way” by Lee Dembart.

      Is there any evidence since then to give us any confidence that the academic community will unite and rededicate resources to saving the human race from global warming in time today?

      1. Based on the nonresponse to the question I asked above, I find it interesting that neither UC nor Washington DC nor the United Nations want to unite and rededicate resources to saving the human race from global warming.

        1. Anthony, As always, thank you for your comments here. In addition to our educational efforts on this blog, you can look at our actions to see what we’re doing. We have several faculty at both UCLA and UC Berkeley law schools, in addition to many more in other departments, who work on climate change law and policy issues (not to mention all the academic scientists who’ve contributed to our knowledge of the physical impacts, causes, and technical solutions). To name just a few things from UCLA School of Law: Cara Horowitz and three of her students are in Bonn now, working on behalf of small island nations concerned about climate change. We’ve submitted legal briefs in several cases in support of federal and state actions to reduce greenhouse gases. We also frequently are called on by journalists to answer their questions and help them to gain understanding and insight as they cover stories relating to climate change. Most of us do policy and legal analysis that has direct implications for state, federal, and international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And we all make our policy and legal analysis publicly accessible through this blog. I’m aware of many other academic institutions that do similar work.

          1. Thanks Sean, I truly appreciate and THANK YOU ALL for your efforts, but the audience is far too limited and it is imperative (especially considering posts like Dan made today on political lies that are confusing the general public far too much) that we take immediate actions to save the human race from global warming since time and resources are running out faster than ever before, to the point where consequences are totally unacceptable and out of control already.

            PLEASE get all your colleagues around the world to UNITE AND REDICATE RESOURCES to saving the human race from global warming with the greatest sense of urgency since WWII.

            It would be most useful if at least one UC campus is totally rededicated to saving the human race today.

  2. Dan said;
    “…there are other features of the report that will make it harder for the Administration to get away legally with ignoring or downplaying climate change…”

    Dear Dan,
    The Trump Administration is not ignoring climate change. The Administration acknowledges that hysterical climate kooks do not offer any viable solutions to control they climate but instead they push expensive, worthless, fraudulent fake “solutions” that have no effect and do not mitigate climate change at all, and waste public resources. Total and complete deception with no integrity whatsoever. Climate is not a problem for those who know and honor truth.Come back when you got something that works.

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About Dan

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

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