Hidden in a largely overlooked draft report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are some startling figures: the Trump administration believes there will be a 7 degree Fahrenheit rise in average global temperatures by 2100, and the report suggest we not even bother trying to stop it.
“The amazing thing they’re saying is human activities are going to lead to this rise of carbon dioxide that is disastrous for the environment and society. And then they’re saying they’re not going to do anything about it,” Michael MacCracken, who served as a senior scientist at the U.S. Global Change Research Program from 1993 to 2002, told the Washington Post.
Deep in the dog days of summer this year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a 500-page report on the environmental impact of fuel economy standards. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this document was not widely-read. But on Friday, the Washington Post reported the fact that the paper assumes that if current practices are unchanged, the planet will warm a catastrophic 7 degrees F, or about 4 degrees Celsius.
It’s hard to overemphasize just how devastating a 4 degree warming would be. Under the Paris Climate Agreement, every other country on the planet is working to try to curb our emissions and fossil fuel consumption in order to slow the warming of our planet. The goal is to keep it from warming beyond 1.5 degree C—and never reach 2 degree C—above pre-industrial levels. A new United Nations report suggests that first goal is already very unlikely, but there is still hope of keeping us under 2 degrees.
Four degrees of warming would be, quite simply, catastrophic. At just two degrees of warming, our crop production would drop drastically, the ocean level would rise about 50 cm, freshwater would dry up by about 17 percent, and heat waves and storms would ravage more of the planet for longer. Double that and you’re looking at a completely altered planet.
What’s most alarming about the paper is that it takes this warming as a predetermined fact and, rather than advocating for change, uses it to justify not improving fuel efficiency standards after 2020, resulting in an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. The report claims that this would be a negligible contribution to the inevitable warming the agency anticipates.