Trump Is Stalling on the Country’s Most Important Climate Change Report

Trump Is Stalling on the Country’s Most Important Climate Change Report
A satellite image taken on September 16, 2020, showing Hurricane Sally swirling on the east coast of the United States while massive clouds of wildfire smoke move across from the west coast. (NOAA/NESDIS/STAR GOES-East)

The Trump administration should have started working on the next National Climate Assessment already—but it hasn’t yet recruited a single scientist.

The Trump administration is already hopelessly behind in producing the next edition of the National Climate Assessment, and it appears to be making no effort to meet the 2022 deadline, despite the report being legally mandated. Federal law requires the president to convene a group of scientists every four years to summarize the best available research on the state of the climate and report back to Congress and the White House. The work is meant to provide an analysis of the immediate and long-term risks of climate change and guide our national policies to combat them.

By now, the administration officials should have already recruited dozens of scientists to begin reviewing new research on climate change and the many consequences of our failure to control it, but they didn’t even put out the call for public nominations for those scientists until last Thursday.

The last review began under President Obama, and President Trump inherited Obama’s work midway through the process. Trump did everything he could to undermine its findings. He released the final report on Black Friday in 2018. When asked about the assessment’s dire warnings, Trump responded, “I don’t believe it.” The administration then instituted a series of rules intended to underreport the threat posed by climate in future reports—for example, limiting the timelines of scientific projections to only the immediate future rather than considering climate impacts several decades away, when they are expected to be more severe.

It’s not surprising, then, that the president isn’t exactly keen to launch work on the next National Climate Assessment. He might, however, be inadvertently doing the country (and world) a favor. If Trump continues to stall, the hard work of the next climate assessment may just fall into the lap of a different president. A late but honest National Climate Assessment, drafted by serious scientists who didn’t come out of the fossil fuel industry, would be better than anything Trump and his corrupt team could produce.

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