The Trump Administration Released a Damning Climate Report. Now Its Agencies Won’t Comment.

The EPA directed callers to the White House.

The Camp Fire tore through the town of Paradise in California in November. Credit Image: � Neal Waters/ZUMA

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“Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities,” warns the very first sentence of the fourth National Climate Assessment, a 1,656-page report that gives us the most comprehensive portrait yet of how climate change is reshaping the US, from more damaging wildfire seasons to shrinking coastal lines. 

The Trump administration released the assessment on the Friday afternoon after Thanksgiving, a strategy one of NCA’s authors, World Resources Institute’s Andrew Light, noted was “an attempt to bury this report so that nobody sees it.” 

But the timing is not the only way the administration has tried to bury the report. Most of the 13 federal agencies that were involved in the assessment have ignored its release entirely.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which operates out of the Department of Commerce, organized a press call on Friday afternoon with reporters, but other than that, the other agencies involved have not issued any kind of comment. The Environmental Protection Agency, the agency most closely tasked with addressing climate change, has not acknowledged its findings on its social media or in news releases. When contacted by Mother Jones, the EPA redirected questions to the White House. Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, who has remained faithful to the Trump administration’s particular brand of deregulation and climate denial, may finally address the issue at an event on Wednesday hosted by the Washington Post. 

Former Obama EPA spokesperson Liz Purchia said it was unusual and, worse, damaging, for the agency to turn a blind eye to the report. “The Trump administration and president himself are very aware of their power to drive the media narrative and to reach the American people,” she says. “The federal government has an important responsibility to communicate with American people on what science tells us and how to protect our public health…By choosing to do nothing they’re doing a disservice.” 

This is all in contrast to when the National Climate Assessments were released under previous administrations. Steve Cole, a spokesperson for NASA, told Mother Jones the science agency would have no particular statement on the report, since it was an interagency project. Four years ago, NASA’s response was more thorough, including a blog post by the administrator highlighting NASA’s role in the report.

It’s not much of a mystery why these agencies are ignoring their own findings, given Trump’s determination to reject the gravity of climate change and bolster polluters’ short-term gains. Trump, the world’s most powerful climate change denier, reminded us again that he still thinks it is a hoax, when he tweeted during the cold snap in the east the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

Then on Monday, when he was asked by reporters about the report, he responded, “I don’t believe it.”

The costs of this ignorance are staggering. The report puts a price tag of $141 billion in heat-related deaths, $118 billion in homes at risk form sea-level rise, and trillions of dollars in cumulative coastal damages by the end of the century.

Since the federal government is ignoring these facts, state and municipal-level managers may learn more from the report on adapting to a radically different future. As the report clearly states, “The assumption that current and future climate conditions will resemble the recent past is no longer valid.”

More MotherJones reporting on Climate Desk

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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