The New York Times has done an admirable job in spotlighting the Trump administration’s new report on climate change, which the administration clearly wants to bury.
The 1,656-page assessment, the second volume of the fourth National Climate Assessment — a report required every four years by law — was released in a “news dump” on the Friday after Thanksgiving; the Times has done major front-page stories on the report every day since.
The administration is widely expected to discount or ignore the report’s detailed findings of the economic strain caused by climate change, even as it continues to cut environmental regulations, while opponents use it to mount legal attacks against the very administration that issued the report. …
In publishing the assessment, White House officials made a calculation that Mr. Trump’s core base of supporters most likely would not care that its findings are so at odds with the president’s statements and policies.
That view is supported by Steven J. Milloy, a member of Mr. Trump’s E.P.A. transition team who runs the website junkscience.com, which is aimed at casting doubt on the established science of human-caused climate change. “We don’t care,” he said. “In our view, this is made-up hysteria anyway.”
We don’t care. The Trump administration’s findings are that the U.S. could face massive public health and environmental crises, and economic losses of $500 billion per year on our current trajectory, twice the hit of the Great Recession. But they don’t care — they will go right on pursuing policies that exacerbate those risks.
This contradiction could come up in legal challenges and other efforts by environmental activists. From this morning’s New York Times story:
“This report will be used in court in significant ways,” said Richard L. Revesz, an expert in environmental law at New York University. “I can imagine a lawyer for the Trump administration being asked by a federal judge, ‘How can the federal government acknowledge the seriousness of the problem, and then set aside the rules that protect the American people from the problem?’ And they might squirm around coming up with an answer.”
And more from a new story out today in Vox:
Now the National Climate Assessment gives environmental groups and activists more ammunition in their legal fight against these changes. “The report affirms what we’ve all known: The costs of climate change under a business as usual scenario are phenomenal,” said Michael Burger, executive director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University. “I think that this should help opponents of the rollbacks both politically and in court.”
Many environmental rules hinge on cost-benefit analyses. While the latest assessment doesn’t explicitly make that calculation, it does show that climate change places a huge economic burden on the United States, which undermines the government’s efforts to ignore or downplay the issue. That this report comes from Trump’s White House only gives it more weight.
As for Trump himself, he claimed to reporters that he had read some of the report, prepared by his own administration. “I don’t believe it,” he said.