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US government agency certain that climate change is man-made despite Trump's contradictions

A new landmark report came ahead of a meeting of Ireland’s Citizens’ Assembly on climate change today.

Image: Shutterstock/Avivi Aharon

A MASSIVE US report concludes the evidence of global warming is stronger than ever, contradicting a favourite talking point of top Trump administration officials, who downplay humans’ role in climate change.

The report released yesterday is one of two scientific assessments required every four years. A draft showing how warming affects the US was also published.

The report comes ahead of a meeting of Ireland’s Citizens’ Assembly today tomorrow, with the topic of how the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change on the agenda.

“More serious than we think”

Despite fears by some scientists and environmental advocates, David Fahey of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and several authors said there was no political interference or censoring of the 477-page final report.

“A lot of what we’ve been learning over the last four years suggests the possibility that things may have been more serious than we think,” said Robert Kopp of Rutgers University, one of dozens of scientists inside and outside the government who wrote the reports.

Since 1900, Earth has warmed by 1 degree Celsius and seas have risen by 8 inches. Heatwaves, downpours and wildfires have become frequent.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt have repeatedly said carbon dioxide isn’t the primary contributor to global warming.

It’s “extremely likely” — meaning with 95 to 100 percent certainty — that global warming is man-made, mostly from the spewing of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, scientists concluded.

“Over the last century, there are no convincing alternative explanations,” the report said.

Scientists calculated that human contribution to warming since 1950 is between 92% and 123%. It’s more than 100% on one end, because some natural forces — such as volcanoes and orbital cycle — are working to cool Earth, but are being overwhelmed by the effects of greenhouse gases, said study co-author Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech.

“This period is now the warmest in the history of modern civilization,” she said.

For the first time, scientists highlighted a dozen “tipping points” of potential dangers that could happen from warming, things that Hayhoe said “keep me up at night”.

They include the slowing down of the giant Atlantic Ocean circulation system that could dramatically warp weather worldwide, much stronger El Ninos, major decreases in ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, which would spike sea level rise, and massive release of methane and carbon dioxide from thawing permafrost that could turbo-charge warming.

Researchers did not provide an estimate of how likely tipping points would occur, but “there is certainly some chance of some of these things happening,” Fahey said.

“Triple threat”

The report also documented how different climate change-caused events can interact in a complex way to make life worse such as the California wildfires and Superstorm Sandy five years ago.

The world’s oceans are under a “triple threat” — the water is getting warmer, more acidic and seeing a drop in oxygen levels, Hayhoe said.

In a 1,504-page draft report on the impacts of climate change, scientists detailed dozens of ways global warming is already affecting parts of the US.

Scientists said global warming is already sickening, injuring and killing Americans with changes to weather, food, air, water and diseases. And it’s expected to get worse, hurting the economy, wildlife and energy supply.

“Risks range from the inconvenient, such as increasing high tide flooding along the East Coast related to sea level rise, to … the forced relocation of coastal communities in Alaska and along the Gulf Coast,” the draft report said.

Outside experts said the reports are the most up-to-date summary of climate science.

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“It shows that if anything the findings of scientists have become more dire” since 2013, said University of California, Berkeley climate scientist Zeke Hausfather, who wasn’t part of the work.

The importance of this is emphasised by the stance of the US President on the issue.

Five months after Trump declared the United States would withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate accord, the Republican leader continues to unravel the environmental legacy of his predecessor, Democrat Barack Obama.

A signature piece of Trump’s strategy has been to roll back regulations, including the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which aimed to cut US emissions from power plants for the first time.

Citizens’ Assembly

Today, the Citizens’ Assembly is hearing submissions on how Ireland can tackle climate change, using the examples of others as well as looking at ways we can take the lead.

It will hear from the National Transport Authority, experts from Trinity, the experience of tackling climate change from Danish and Scottish representatives as well as sessions on how we can adapt our agriculture and land use.

Tomorrow, the assembly will draft a ballot paper on its recommendations.

It will have a roundtable discussion, following by voting and a finalisation of the recommendations it will make to government.

Read: There’s been a rise in weather-related disasters of almost 50% and it’s being blamed on climate change

Read: Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have hit a record high

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Associated Press

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