Suzuki: U.S. climate report leaves little room for doubt

Suzuki: U.S. climate report leaves little room for doubt

Environmentalist says failing to resolve climate change issues puts our survival at risk

By David Suzuki

It seems odd that a major U.S. government climate report released Nov. 3 didn’t receive more media attention. But then, the main thing newsworthy about the Climate Science Special Report is that it was released at all, apparently without political interference.

Although the U.S. government is required by law (enacted by President George H.W. Bush in 1989) to report to the public about “climate change and its physical impacts” every four years, the current administration is openly hostile to climate science and scientists. According to White House sources quoted in the New York Times, president Donald Trump was “barely aware of the report’s existence.”

The report, released by 13 federal agencies under the direction of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, examines the available science. It was written by dozens of government and non-government scientists, reviewed by the independent National Academy of Sciences and approved by the National Economic Council.

It concludes we are living in the warmest period in the history of modern civilization, with the last three years being the warmest on record, that we are seeing more “record-breaking, climate-related weather extremes” and that all the evidence points to human activities, “especially emissions of greenhouse gases,” as the main cause. Climate change should be in the headlines every day until everyone takes it seriously, but the report’s conclusions are not new.

“Thousands of studies conducted by researchers around the world have documented changes in surface, atmospheric, and oceanic temperatures; melting glaciers; diminishing snow cover; shrinking sea ice; rising sea levels; ocean acidification; and increasing atmospheric water vapour,” the reports says.

It’s hard to imagine anyone could read this report, or read about it, and not be convinced we have an urgent problem and that failing to put everything we can into resolving it puts our survival at risk.

And yet, the government overseeing this report is filled with people who reject climate science. The president himself has called it a hoax. He’s appointed climate science deniers to key positions, repealed and weakened environmental laws, had climate change references removed from the Environmental Protection Agency’s website and barred EPA scientists from presenting climate change reports. Many delegates at the UN Climate Conference underway in Bonn, Germany, have condemned Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. from the Paris Agreement.

The official White House statement on the report was a rehash of tired climate science–denial talking points. White House spokesperson Raj Shah said, “The climate has changed and is always changing.” He then went on to cast doubt regarding the climate’s sensitivity to greenhouse gas emissions.

EPA administrator Scott Pruitt has denied the well-known connection between carbon dioxide emissions and global warming, and Energy Secretary Rick Perry has argued the science isn’t conclusive.

But the report also shows that, despite its apparent descent into a post-truth, anti-science dystopia, the United States still maintains sanity in some of its major institutions. Organizations like NASA, NOAA, the EPA and the Department of Defense, along with numerous non-governmental scientific institutions, are continuing to examine the real trends and risks of a planet warming rapidly because of human activity.

It also shows we must do all we can to work toward solutions — economic, technological, philosophical and more — and to only support politicians who demonstrate the foresight, imagination and courage to take on this crisis with the force and intensity it merits.

One frustration of studying and communicating about climate issues is knowing that so many solutions exist and are being developed, but that widespread denial of the problem prevents us from moving beyond outdated technologies and economic systems.

That people who profit from those outdated technologies would do everything they can to sow doubt and confusion is not surprising. That a government elected to serve the people would reject the findings of its own scientists and researchers from around the world to the detriment of human health, the economy and the environment is an intergenerational crime.

Christopher Field, director of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, told the New York Times, “This profoundly affects our ability to be leaders in developing new technologies and understanding how to build successful communities and businesses in the 21st century.” It also puts human survival at risk.

David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.

Just Posted

Fire trucks parked near the McEachern Tobacco Barn on Wednesday, June 16.(Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Fire at heritage tobacco barn in Kelowna doused by residents

McEachern Tobacco Barn is on the city’s heritage register

Elias Carmichael #14 and Ethan Ernst #19 of the Kelowna Rockets check Gage Goncalves #39 of the Everett Silvertips during a game at Prospera Place on February 28, 2020, in Kelowna. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
Fans expected to be back in the stands for Kelowna Rockets 2021-22 season

The Rockets haven’t played in front of a crowd since March 2020

Kelowna flags were flown at half-mast after the discovery of a residential school burial site in Kamloops. (File photo)
Poll: Should Kelowna cancel Canada Day celebrations this year?

Calls are mounting across the country for cities and towns to not host celebrations

The Okanagan Forest Task Force uses a Ford F350 pick-up truck to gather back country garbage. (Okanagan Forest Task Force/Contributed)
Kelowna Canadian Tire steps in to support Okanagan Forest Task Force

The volunteer group has removed over 351,000 pounds of illegally dumped garbage to date

(Phil McLachlan/Capital News file)
Man found dead at Kelowna orchard

Police say the man was working in the orchard at the time of his death; criminality not suspected

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

A fire deliberately set in a washroom facility in Vernon’s transit terminal could cost the city around $25,000 to repair. (City of Vernon)
Vandalism forces Vernon to close public washrooms early

Despite changes made by city, vandalism on the rise at transit loop loos

For more than a year, Rene Doyharcabal and a small group of neighbours in Langley’s Brookswood neighbourhood have been going out every evening to show support for first responders by honking horns and banging pots and drums. Now, a neighbour has filed a noise complaint. (Langley Advance Times file)
Noise complaint filed against nightly show of support for health care workers in B.C. city

Langley Township contacted group to advise of complaint, but no immediate action is expected

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A nurse prepares a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Yukon Convention Centre in Whitehorse on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mike Thomas
Vancouver couple pleads guilty to breaking Yukon COVID rules, travelling for vaccine

Chief Judge Michael Cozens agreed with a joint sentencing submission,

An inmate in solitary confinement given lunch on Tuesday, May 10, 2016. THE CANADIAN/Lars Hagberg
22-hour cap on solitary confinement for youth in custody still too long: B.C. lawyer

Jennifer Metcalfe was horrified to hear a youth had spent a total of 78 straight days in isolation

Old growth in the Columbia Valley, in the Kinbasket area. (Photo submitted)
Wildsight: Old-growth forests are being logged in Golden

Wildsight says that Canfor has been logging old growth at the Blaeberry headwaters

MAKING MUSIC
The Dixie Fried Hep Katz recorded a promotional video at the Kettle Valley Steam Railway station featuring the railway’s steam locomotive. The young band from Enderby plays Canadian Rockabilly, with Porter Johnson, 20, writing, lead guitarist and vocals; sister Kyndra on drums; and Logan Bannick on bass. The band is using the locomotive to promote their song Spooky Train and help shed light on the Kettle Valley Steam Railway’s drive for donations. (Tom Burley photo)
Donations help with repairs of Summerland steam railway

Kettle Valley Steam Railway put out earlier call for railway ties, tires for locomotive

Most Read