In 2017, President Donald Trump eliminated the 15-person Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment. The committee, established in 2015, was tasked with evaluating and providing guidance based on the National Climate Assessment, the newest information about climate that is published every four years. Documents released last year revealed that Trump eliminated the committee because he felt there wasn't enough representation from industry experts.
After an invitation from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, members of the climate panel, in coordination with other experts, reconvened independently with support from the State of New York, Columbia University, and the American Meteorological Society. The new panel, the Science to Climate Action Network, put out a new report on Thursday that calls for better efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change, and provides advice for how to turn climate science into actionable policy.
The report heavily focuses on broader coordination and communication about climate strategies, and emphasizes the inclusion of governments that may not have the capacity to adapt to climate change.
Experts first recommend the creation of a "civil-society-based climate assessment consortium" to encourage research and strategy collaboration across sectors (both governmental and non-governmental) as well as increasing clear communication to the public about climate, and effectively conveying both certainty and uncertainty about climate change.
Americans now believe global warming is happening, according to a December of 2018 poll by Yale University's program on climate change and communication. Seven in 10 Americans (73 percent) think global warming is happening, an increase of 10 percentage points since March of 2015. Only about one in seven Americans (14 percent) think global warming is not happening. This is an "unprecedented" surge, Anthony Leiserowitz, a senior research scientist at Yale who helped oversee the poll, told The Atlantic.
However, the poll found that "only one in five (20 percent) understand how strong the level of consensus among scientists is." According to a 2016 study published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Research Letters, 90 to 100 percent of actively publishing climate scientists agree that climate change is happening and caused by humans.
Yale's poll emerged amid a surge in extreme weather events across the United States in recent years. The 2018 National Climate Assessment concluded that, by the end of the century, the U.S. economy will lose upward of $500 billion because of climate change-related impacts such as crop and labor losses. The report further states that both pollution and rising temperatures, already proven to be deadly, will accelerate in coming years.
The panel's call for more effective climate communication comes at a time when Trump continues to deny that climate change is occurring and has made strides to expand his pro-fossil fuel agenda. Trump has reinforced the idea that existence of climate change itself is a political issue up for debate, ignoring the near-consensus in the scientific community.
While Yale reports that surging numbers of Americans believe in climate science, a poll by the Associated Press and University of Chicago's Energy Policy Institute found, when asked how much they would be willing to pay as an additional part of their monthly electricity bill which would be allocated to combat climate change, 57 percent of those surveyed said they would be willing to pay at least $1, 23 percent said they'd pay at least $40, and 16 percent were willing to pay at least $100.
What does this mean for the Science to Climate Action Network? Information—and equitable access to information—will be essential, the panel reports.
Information coordination and communication will be essential for the governments of low-resource, historically marginalized, and rural areas that may be less equipped to do climate assessments (and create strategies for adaptation and mitigation) on their own, the panel notes.
It also recommends utilizing "citizen and community science," whereby people who are not trained as scientists can participate in science processes such as data collection and co-designing research projects that are more tailored to local priorities.
The report also includes other specific technological suggestions such as increasing the role of artificial intelligence and better implementation of mapping tools to track projected impacts.