U.S. Diplomats Buck Their Own Science to Sell Fossils as ‘Answer to Climate Change’
American delegates to COP 23, convening this week and next in Bonn, will need a straight face to deliver the Trump administration’s message that fossil fuels are good for the climate, after a major U.S. government report confirmed (again) that no, climate change is not a hoax, and yes, fossil fuels make it worse.
According to the New York Times, the White House confirmed late last week that America’s delegation to the Bonn climate summit “will promote coal, natural gas, and nuclear energy as an answer to climate change.” A presentation to delegates will discuss “how American energy resources, particularly fossil fuels, can help poor countries meet electricity needs and drive down greenhouse gas emissions,” the paper reports, and “feature speakers from Peabody Energy, a coal company; NuScale Power, a nuclear engineering firm; and Tellurian, a liquefied natural gas exporter.”
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The sales pitch will need to ignore the powerful contradictory message contained in a Congressionally-mandated report on the impacts and implications of climate change for the United States, released by the White House Friday without fanfare, but also without evidence of the political tampering observers had feared.
The report by the U.S. Global Change Research Program reconfirmed a core science consensus, finding that “the Earth is undergoing its warmest period ‘in the history of modern civilization,’ fuelled primarily by rising levels of carbon dioxide,” Bloomberg reports.
Its “conclusions about melting glaciers, diminishing snow cover, ocean acidification, and other results of a warming planet are hardly new,” the outlet adds. But “the central premise, that humans are to blame, contradicts Donald Trump and many high-ranking members of his administration, who have questioned the scientific findings regarding climate change.”
“Thousands of studies conducted by researchers around the world have documented changes in surface, atmospheric, and oceanic temperatures; melting glaciers; diminishing snow cover; shrinking sea ice; rising sea levels; ocean acidification; and increasing atmospheric water vapour,” the U.S. report finds. Several of those effects pose particular challenges for the United States.
“Global average sea levels are expected to continue to rise—by at least several inches in the next 15 years and one to four feet by 2100,” the report’s authors write. “A rise of as much as eight feet by 2100 cannot be ruled out.” And due to geological effects left over from the last ice age, much of the United States’ Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastline is submerging at an above-average—and accelerating—clip.
With California still smouldering from record wildfires, the report observes that “the incidence of large forest fires in the western United States and Alaska has increased since the early 1980s, and is projected to further increase in those regions as the climate changes.” In the same region, “annual trends toward earlier spring melt and reduced snowpack are already affecting water resources. These trends are expected to continue, and assuming no change to current management, chronic, long-duration hydrological drought is increasingly possible before the end of this century.”
Particularly hard for America’s diplomats to reconcile with their pro-fossil narrative will be this alarming paragraph from their own government’s assessment of the science:
“The magnitude of climate change beyond the next few decades will depend primarily on the amount of greenhouse gases (especially carbon dioxide) emitted globally. Without major reductions in emissions, the increase in annual average global temperature relative to pre-industrial times could reach 9°F (5°C) or more by the end of this century.”