The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s confirmation that 2016 was the hottest year on record, coming on the heels of a powerful National Climate Assessment earlier this week, could slow the Trump administration’s attack on climate science and regulation, U.S. media report.
The NOAA study, to be released in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, “is the most comprehensive assessment of the effects of climate change released by the Trump administration, and it could make it easier to refute efforts from the president and his cabinet members to publicly discount climate science as they have frequently done in the past,” Politico reports.
Although it doesn’t connect the dots between climate change and human activities—as did the national assessment draft—NOAA’s State of the Climate publication “outlines the observed outcomes of swiftly rising temperatures,” notes climate and energy reporter Emily Holden. “They include the highest sea levels ever recorded, extremes in rain cycles, and declines in global ice and snow cover. The nearly 500 authors convened by NOAA explain the effects that are due to both long-term global warming and shorter-term weather events like El Niño.”
The report documents greenhouse gas concentrations and global surface temperatures at their highest recorded levels ever, the Arctic warming faster than the rest of the world, Antarctic sea ice at its lowest level ever, and alpine glaciers shrinking for 37 straight years, by an average of 2.8 feet/0.85 metres. “This is basically like an annual physical of the climate system,” said report co-editor Deke Arndt, chief of NOAA’s climate monitoring branch.
Taken in tandem, the two reports may be enough to roll back the push by Trump and his climate-denying Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Scott Pruitt, to eliminate Obama-era climate regulations.
“Revoking Obama’s rules requires agencies to give a legally sound justification for the policy pivots—such as arguing they are no longer necessary,” Bloomberg reports. “Both reports will make it harder for the agency to reverse the Obama administration’s limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, as well as the broader policy that defines those emissions as a danger to the public, called an endangerment finding.”
“If the [National Climate Assessment] comes out with an unflattering report on carbon dioxide, the only way EPA can change its endangerment finding is to reexamine all that science, and have a reasonable basis for rejecting,” said David Schnare, a member of Trump’s EPA transition team who advised Pruitt until he left the agency in March. With the NCA and NOAA findings in the public domain, he added, “it’s hard to dodge.”
“It will make it harder for them to justify,” agreed David Hawkins, director of climate programs at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It’s yet another document that weighs against whatever claims Trump political appointees attempt to make about the state of the science.”