Several sources involved in producing a government climate change report due out soon say they have seen no indication that the White House might suppress the scientific research that offers the clearest indication yet that human activity is altering the planet’s temperature.
The New York Times reported Monday evening that it had received a copy of the latest draft of the report, and that scientists involved with it said they were worried the Trump administration could change or suppress the findings.
The Climate Science Special Report, a part of the National Climate Assessment, was written by scientists at 13 federal agencies. Each of those agencies must sign off on the final version by Aug. 18.
Two federal climate program leaders and several report contributors said they don’t expect the Trump administration to stall a scheduled late-November deadline or try to make revisions. Some said the U.S. Global Change Research Program, which coordinates the project, is already preparing a website to showcase the report. USGCRP leaders did not comment for this story.
President Donald Trump has dismissed man-made climate change, and EPA chief Scott Pruitt plans to launch a debate about the science, raising concerns that the administration could seek to influence the roll out of the report and broader assessment, which began at least a year and a half ago under former President Barack Obama and is required by law to be updated every four years.
The most recent draft of the science report, first obtained by The New York Times, explains that since the last assessment, “stronger evidence has emerged for continuing, rapid, human-caused warming of the global atmosphere and ocean.”
Katharine Hayhoe, a lead author and climate scientist at Texas Tech University, explained that the research is clearer than ever that humans are causing climate change. The report finds it “extremely likely” that more than half of the average global temperature increase since 1951 is linked to human activity.
Hayhoe said the report also says that there’s no alternative, credible explanations for why temperatures would have climbed. But the report, which compiled feedback from the National Academy of Sciences as well as a public comment period, does not make policy recommendations. It contains "ultra-cautious," peer-reviewed scientific conclusions, she said.
The White House could still accept, reject or request changes to the report, Hayhoe said.
“We currently have no indication which of those three they are going to choose,” Hayhoe said. “We believe we’re on target, we’re on the [same] time frame at this point. In basketball, you play the game until the ref blows the whistle.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed that The New York Times wrote about the draft report without verifying its contents with the administration or federal agencies.
“The White House will withhold comment on any draft report before its scheduled release date,” Sanders said.