Fact-checking the White House push back on climate assessment

CNN's John Avlon looks at the partisan push back over the Trump administration's climate change report.

Posted: Nov 28, 2018 5:55 AM


Before boarding Marine One on the way to a political rally in Mississippi on Monday, President Donald Trump answered a few questions from reporters. When asked about a 1,600-page climate change report compiled by 13 federal agencies and over 300 leading scientists, Trump responded that he did not believe the report's findings, including that the damage from a warming planet would reduce the US economy by 10 percent by the end of the 21st Century. "I don't believe it," Trump responded.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders reiterated the President's comments during a press briefing a day later, stating that the report is "not based on facts" but based on "the most extreme modeled scenario, which contradicts long established trends."

The topic of climate change is obviously politically charged. The report, put together with the help of 1,000 people, including 300 leading scientists, roughly half from outside the government, is designed to cut through that partisanship. Dubbed the Fourth National Climate Assessment, the report was issued by the US Global Change Research Program, a team of 13 federal agencies, and is the second of two volumes.

Given the President's past denials of climate change and his administration's efforts to reverse the polices of the Obama administration to address its effects, the report puts the White House in an awkward position of having to disavow the research of its own government. Here is a fact-check of some of its responses.

Fact check -- Sanders: the "report is based on the most extreme modeled scenario"

This is wrong. The report evaluates a number of scenarios from best to worst case.

The scenarios "span a range of plausible future changes in key environmental parameters" including variations in temperature, sea level rise and population, according to the report. These scenario products "help ensure consistency in underlying assumptions across the report," it states.

Penn State Earth System Science Center Director Michael Mann, a leading climate change scientist, contradicted the White House's claims.

"As is often the case, the opposite of what the White House claims is true. If anything, climate models have historically underpredicted the impact of climate change on ice melt, sea level rise, and increases in extreme weather," Mann told CNN.

Sanders said that the "extreme modeled scenario" used in the report "contradicts long-established trends."

To the contrary, the Climate Science Special Report which provided the scientific foundation for this report actually states that the observed trends over the last 15-20 years are consistent with the higher emission scenarios.

Fact check - "Right now, we're at the cleanest we've ever been."

It's unclear exactly what Trump is referring to here. In response to the report, the White House cited a statistic from the US Energy Information Administration -- since 2005, the country's energy-related CO2 emissions have declined by 14 percent, even as global emissions continue to rise.

While the statistic itself is accurate, much of that reduction is the result of power plants switching from coal to cleaner burning natural gas over the past decade, according to the EIA.

Trump has made reviving the coal industry a key part of his energy policy.

In August, the EPA introduced the Affordable Clean Energy rule, which shifted the power to regulate coal power plants' carbon emissions from the federal government to the states.

In September, the EPA released a proposal that would relax requirements for how energy companies monitor and repair methane leaks.

In February, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order asking the EPA to review Obama-era water regulations to make sure they were not harming the economy.

"I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion and to cancel job-killing regulations," said Trump.

The EPA and the Department of the Army are in the process of reviewing the Waters of the United States act created in 2015 under President Obama.

"There is nothing green and clean about gutting climate policies and locking us into future impacts that will disrupt lives, bring irreversible changes to ecosystems, topple infrastructure and hurt our economy" said Kelly Levin, a senior associate with the World Resources Institute's global climate program.

Levin, who co-authored a report of the United Nations Environment Program released Tuesday that highlights global climate emissions, told CNN, "the rollbacks of the Administration will lead to greater climate pollution."

Fact check- the next report will "provide for a more transparent and data-driven process."

The White House statement called for the need for greater transparency and claimed that the next NCA, due out around 2021, will give an "opportunity to provide for a more transparent and data-driven process that includes fuller information on the range of potential scenarios and outcomes."

But according to Katharine Hayhoe, one of the report's lead authors, the process couldn't be any more transparent.

"This is the most transparent scientific report I have ever been a part of, by far," Hayhoe told CNN. Hayhoe detailed how every step of the process was open for review, including making the rough draft open for public comment. The authors were then required to respond to every single public comment made on the draft, as well as opening the review process from other scientific entities such as the National Academy of Sciences.

Scroll for more content...

New York

Cases: 1242561

Reported Deaths: 40993
CountyCasesDeaths
Queens1550597836
Kings1519718037
Suffolk1259252577
Nassau1127022540
Bronx1038695255
Westchester837081789
New York744523434
Erie513841360
Richmond442101373
Monroe43659753
Rockland31509806
Orange28386642
Onondaga27190524
Oneida16502341
Dutchess16327304
Albany15981252
Niagara11822239
Broome10866254
Saratoga898479
Schenectady8480122
Ulster7548189
Rensselaer6693102
Putnam638674
Chemung5534107
Chautauqua546056
Oswego481663
Ontario464781
Steuben4541131
Cayuga431069
Sullivan376548
Genesee363098
Wayne360650
Herkimer352851
St. Lawrence349656
Cattaraugus334460
Jefferson309421
Madison307375
Livingston264538
Tompkins261322
Cortland260453
Columbia239769
Allegany232875
Montgomery216772
Tioga216754
Wyoming211441
Clinton209117
Fulton203948
Warren200437
Greene199557
Orleans189868
Chenango170439
Otsego162323
Lewis145123
Washington143823
Seneca120345
Franklin11039
Delaware99019
Essex95916
Schoharie8825
Yates79516
Schuyler71010
Hamilton1451
Unassigned39101
Out of NY0164

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 2988326

Reported Deaths: 33589
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles101466213848
San Bernardino2512131560
Riverside2394122517
San Diego2117872103
Orange2108132367
Santa Clara926251065
Kern84644565
Fresno81294932
Sacramento791221080
Alameda66583757
Ventura60368412
San Joaquin56642748
Contra Costa51573446
Stanislaus42337739
Tulare40655501
Monterey35418250
San Mateo31805294
San Francisco28853254
Imperial25140463
Solano24732105
Santa Barbara24149231
Sonoma23607234
Merced23492296
Kings19125133
Placer16995173
San Luis Obispo15466128
Madera13193130
Santa Cruz12026113
Marin11482153
Yolo10406131
Shasta9594117
Butte9359121
El Dorado757544
Sutter756077
Napa735639
Lassen509413
San Benito488243
Yuba481827
Tehama397142
Tuolumne330438
Nevada314473
Mendocino307631
Amador298629
Lake250428
Humboldt229424
Glenn189419
Colusa16919
Calaveras159623
Siskiyou140813
Mono10834
Inyo92429
Del Norte8532
Plumas5735
Modoc3793
Mariposa3444
Trinity3024
Alpine730
Sierra700
Unassigned00

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 133205

Reported Deaths: 1800
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah28337458
Washington18644171
Marion16172238
Clackamas11642138
Lane8272108
Jackson689285
Umatilla676568
Deschutes495236
Yamhill318245
Malheur313152
Linn310846
Polk244640
Klamath242838
Josephine173533
Jefferson170225
Benton169514
Douglas167743
Union111416
Wasco107123
Columbia104318
Lincoln99117
Hood River95121
Coos93715
Morrow93310
Clatsop6865
Crook61010
Baker5685
Tillamook3652
Curry3245
Lake2305
Grant2131
Harney1754
Wallowa963
Gilliam511
Sherman470
Wheeler201
Unassigned00