Every four years, the nation’s scientists from myriad federal agencies come together to release a comprehensive report synthesizing the current state of climate science. It’s become a routine affair, with a predictable process involving extensive analysis of studies, numerous drafts, and eventual approval from the White House before the public release of the latest National Climate Assessment. But this year was different.
Rather than follow traditional protocols and await approval from the Trump administration, these scientists urged The New York Times to release the document in draft form out of fear that the White House might suppress the findings. That fear likely stems from a general skepticism of climate science that runs through the Trump administration. The report, these scientists say, is too important to be sidelined by politics.
“It’s the most comprehensive and up to date report on climate science in the world at this point,” says Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist at Texas Tech University who was one of the authors of the report. “This report covers the entire gamut of the science we need to know to make sound decisions about our future.”
Citing analysis from thousands of studies, the nation’s climate assessment offers not just a dire warning about what climate change may bring in future years, but a detailed account of effects that are already occurring and of human contributions to those changes.
“Evidence for a changing climate abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans,” a draft of the report published by The New York Times reads. “Many lines of evidence demonstrate that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are primarily responsible for the observed climate changes in the industrial era, especially over the last six decades.”