To Our Elected Leaders at All Levels of Government –
As former employees of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, we know that science is at the heart of the bipartisan progress our nation has made toward protecting public health and the environment. Americans enjoy cleaner air, water and land today because for decades we have followed the science, using the best available evidence to understand and solve environmental problems. Yet as we mark the 47th Earth Day this month, the Trump Administration and its supporters in Congress are turning their backs on science and what it tells us about the gravest environmental problem of our times – climate change.
On April 22, Earth Day, tens of thousands of people marched in this country and around the world to support science and the central role it plays in our lives. On April 29, people will march in cities and towns across the U.S. and the world to demand climate protection. The combined message of these marches is clear – that science must guide and speed our collective efforts to protect life on Earth from climate change. We urge you to join us at the climate marches and heed that message by rejecting the Trump Administration’s climate denial policies and taking the action needed to help arrest human-caused climate change.
Trump’s policy of denial:
In a 2010 report that Congress itself commissioned, the National Research Council concluded, “Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for – and in many cases is already affecting – a broad range of human and natural systems.”(1) Other national and international scientific groups have since confirmed and strengthened the NRC’s conclusion in light of more recent evidence.(2)
Despite these authoritative reports, President Trump recently took two actions that turn a willfully blind eye to climate change, its human causes and its increasingly dangerous consequences:
• His so-called “Energy Independence Executive Order” stalls action to combat climate change and throws away tools that help policymakers and the public better understand, respond to and plan for the changes already underway. His justification has nothing to do with facts, either about climate change or the coal-mining jobs he claims will come back. (See EO Summary hyperlinked in footnote 3)
• His proposed budget would defund EPA climate science and virtually eliminate EPA’s capacity to take regulatory action or promote voluntary action in response to scientific findings showing that climate change already threatens the lives, health and property of Americans and people around the world. Other federal agencies would face cuts in climate science and clean energy research (See Budget Summary hyperlinked in footnote 4).
Trump’s unprecedented and irrational break with science:
The President’s reckless disregard for the science and consequences of climate change stands in stark contrast to his predecessors’ respect for science and common sense. For nearly 50 years, Republican and Democratic administrations have recognized scientific evidence that pollution has the potential to alter the world’s climate in dangerous ways. In 1970, President Richard Nixon’s Council on Environmental Quality recognized the phenomenon of “man’s inadvertent modification of weather and climate” from growing levels of air pollution. In 1992, President George H.W. Bush agreed to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the first international treaty to address human-caused climate change.
In 2008 under President George W. Bush(6), and again in 2009 under President Obama(7), EPA conducted exhaustive, public rounds of review of the available scientific evidence of climate change. The agency relied primarily on major, peer-reviewed assessments of the climate science literature by the government-wide U.S. Global Change Research Program, the National Research Council and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. After considering more than 11,000 individual public comments, EPA concluded in 2009 that climate-changing pollution endangers Americans’ health and welfare – and in ways unprecedented in scope and severity.(8)
EPA explained that multiple lines of evidence show that most of the recent warming is due to human activities. One, greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere have increased to levels not seen in hundreds of thousands of years, and these gases are known to trap heat. Two, multiple sets of temperature records show that the earth is in fact growing hotter, and estimates of past climate changes suggest that changes in global surface temperature over the last several decades are unusual. Three, peer-reviewed climate models that simulate response of the climate system to natural and human influences are only able to replicate the observed warming when human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases are included.(9)
EPA’s endangerment finding was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Based on that finding, EPA began limiting greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles and other sources. Trump’s risk-taking with American lives, property and legacy:
Since EPA’s first endangerment finding in 2009, the scientific case that climate change is already occurring and will worsen over time has only grown stronger. Different administrations can and do decide on different policy approaches for addressing the same set of facts. But the Trump Administration is choosing to ignore the facts of climate change, endangering us all.
Scientists warn of climate change impacts so numerous and far-reaching that they are almost impossible to comprehend – except that we are already beginning to experience many of them: more extreme weather leading to heat waves, flooding, drought, mudslides and wildfires; melting glaciers, rising sea levels and higher storm surges inundating coastal communities; ocean acidification and coral death; the spread of tropical and other diseases to new areas of the U.S.; and migration or extinction of species important to agriculture, fishing, tourism and the world’s biodiversity. Many impacts are, for all practical purposes, irreversible. (See Climate Change Science Summary hyperlinked in footnote 10).
Action to reduce climate change needs to be taken now. While many air pollutants stay in the atmosphere only a short time, most climate-changing pollution remains in the atmosphere for tens, hundreds or even thousands of years depending on the pollutant. That means that the longer we wait to rein in the pollution, the more it builds up in the atmosphere and the more it warms the Earth, creating the damaging impacts described above.
Trump’s abdication of global leadership:
For climate change to be limited, countries around the world must reduce the pollution fueling it. Recent U.S. efforts to reduce its climate-changing pollution were instrumental to persuading other high-emitting countries to reduce their pollution as part of the Paris Accords. President Trump’s attempts to sweep away U.S. climate protection policies not only diminish the U.S. in the eyes of the world but set a dangerous example for other nations.
The Trump Administration efforts to extinguish U.S. climate change policy and leadership flout scientific fact and common decency. We are in a global race against time to limit climate change. Unless action is taken now, Americans and people around the world will face the ever-encroaching, increasingly devastating effects of climate change.
Americans have always taken pride in leaving the world a better place for the next generation. We now stand on the brink of leaving our children and their children a more dangerous and diminished world. At the upcoming climate marches and going forward, we call on you, our elected leaders, to stand with us for what has always made this country great – meeting the challenges of our times so that our children can inherit a better world. Take action now to put our world on course for a stable climate future.
[Footnotes](1) The Wall Street Journal, April 24, 2017. http://secure.marketwatch.com/story/tens-of-thousands-march-for-science-in-more-than-500-rallies-around-the-world-2017-04-24?link=MW_story_latest_news(2) National Research Council (2010), “Advancing the Science of Climate Change,” National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., p.3. The NRC is the operating arm of the National Academies of Science. (3) See, for example, U.S. Global Change Research Program, Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment, May 2014; and IPCC, 2014: Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report, Geneva, Switzerland.(4) See EO Summary: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxEEWBL5FvSkRmMzdHo3Q2FhMzQ/view (5) See Budget Summary: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxEEWBL5FvSkQWhxMmhwUXZoQms/view(6) U.S. CEQ, “Environmental Quality: The First Annual Report of the Council on Environmental Quality,” August 1970, p. 93-104. That same year, Congress added “climate” to Clean Air Act’s definition of “welfare” effects that the Act protects from air pollution.(7) U.S. EPA, Technical Support Document for Endangerment Analysis for Greenhouse Gases under the Clean Air Act, Sixth Order Draft, June 21, 2008.https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EPA-HQ-OAR-2008-0318-0082(8) U.S. EPA, Technical Support Document for Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act, December 7, 2009. https://www.epa.gov/climatechange/technical-support-document-findings(9) U.S. EPA, Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases Under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act; Final Rule, Federal Register, Vol. 74, No. 239, December 15, 2009. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-08/documents/federal_register-epa-hq-oar-2009-0171-dec.15-09.pdf(10)Ibid, pp. 66523 and subsequent.(11) See Climate Change Science Summary: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxEEWBL5FvSkOTRucTlFRXltQ2M/view