More Reports, When Will There Be Policy?

In 2018, Black Friday was not only a day of unbridled capitalism, but also  a day full of climate reports. American departments released two separate summaries of scientific findings. Both came with dire warnings about the future. Many have criticized the decision to release these reports on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, as an act of “burying” these findings in the news cycle. 

The Fourth National Climate Report was a cooperation between 13 different government agencies. It’s nearly 1,700 pages and details a wide array of climate consequences. The report warns that global temperatures have warmed two degrees Fahrenheit since the end of the Second World War. Also, the world is projected to warm four more degrees by the end of the century.

Researchers dedicate hundreds of pages to the consequences of climate change, specifically, recounting the impact on the American economy. Climate change makes agriculture inconsistent and potentially worsens natural disasters. The report suggests that the American economy could shrink by more than 10 percent: a loss upwards of two-trillion dollars annually. An economic disaster far worse than the 2008 recession.

Illustration by Lo Wall

The Donald Trump administration has been hesitant to listen to such dire warnings. “I don’t believe it,” said President Trump on Nov. 26 when asked about his thoughts on the matter. Trump went on to reaffirm his position as a climate change skeptic. In the past, President Trump has referred to similar findings as hoaxes and expressed concern that action will hurt the economy.

The joint climate report wasn’t the only one released on Black Friday. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) released a Scientific Investigations report. During Obama’s final month in office, the DOI tasked the USGS with assessing the impact of federal land. After almost two years of research, the report reveals that the consumption of fossil fuels from federal land accounted for 23.7 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions and 7.3 percent of methane. This means that federal land accounts for a significant portion of total emissions.

Colorado plays a large role in the USGS report. The state ranks third on methane emissions and fourth in carbon dioxide. Those mining operations impact the environment, but they also help the Colorado economy. The Department of Interior National Resource Revenue data found that government resource extraction provided almost 500 million dollars in revenue. That money is taxed and helped fund the Colorado economy.

This creates a difficult decision for governor-elect Jared Polis. He stands for environmental causes and has even made climate change a priority. Choosing between Colorado tax dollars and the environment is a difficult choice. One that Polis will have to make in his upcoming term.

On the national level, these two reports foretell a troubling future. The National Climate Report demands the government take action while the USGS report only asks for it to affect future policy. Regardless of stance, scientists can only remain on the sidelines. Because it’s the Trump administration — not the reports — that decides future policy.

Russell Skorina

Russell Skorina

Russell Skorina

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