The United States has joined a controversial proposal by Saudi Arabia and Russia this weekend to weaken a reference to a key report on the severity of global warming, sharpening the battle lines at the world climate summit in Poland, aimed at get a consensus on how to counteract the increase in temperatures.
Matters broke out Saturday night in front of a United Nations science and technology working group, in which the United States collaborated with Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to challenge the language that would welcome conclusions of the historical report, which said the world has barely 10 years to reduce carbon emissions by almost half to avoid catastrophic warming.
"There would have been an agreement to welcome the relationship," said Jake Schmidt, managing director of the International Program for the Defense of Natural Resources, which is located in Poland. "The United States wanted to write it down, which basically means we know it's out there but we have no comments."
The US position aligns with the views of the Trump administration, which is pursuing a series of aggressive policies on coal energy and oil exploration that are likely to worsen the effects of climate change – steamrolling on terrible environmental alarms issued by the same administration team of experts in an important report only two weeks ago.
In 2015, when the countries of the world negotiated the Paris climate agreement, they asked the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to produce a report in 2018 "on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 ° C compared to levels pre-industrial and global greenhouse gas emission paths. "
It is this relationship, an integral part of the negotiations in Katowice, Poland, and specifically planned for them, which has now become a turning point in the talks. Delegates from other countries were surprised when the United States rejected a move to accept the report and only proposed to "take note".
"The fact that nations are spending so much time on minor formulation terms while science finds increasing risk of disasters must be seen as a metaphor of how inadequate the global response to the climate challenge has been," said Paul Bledsoe, former Clinton climate consultant who is in Poland. "It also shows that the lack of American leadership has huge costs for global ambition."
The Trump administration's attempt to delegate to look beyond the most important reports on the world's climate comes two weeks after the administration downplayed an important federal report on the impacts of global warming in the United States, which is the second largest carbon dioxide in the world.
Over the weekend, the president reiterated his decision to remove the United States from the Paris global agreement to reduce carbon emissions from coal, natural gas and oil. Referring to the ongoing unrest in France, where thousands of protesters protested for an increase in the proposed fuel tax, Trump tweeted: "Very sad day and night in Paris Maybe it's time to end the ridiculous and expensive Paris agreement and return the money to people in the form of lower taxes? "
Trump has touted American progress on the issue. "The United States was far ahead of the curve and the only big country where emissions fell last year!"
It is true that US emissions have declined in 2017, but a growth of 2.5% is expected in 2018.
According to the Federal Federal Information Administration, emissions had declined in seven of the last 10 years before the growth of this year.
Ignoring the assessment of the climate of experts at his administration, released the day after Thanksgiving, US officials have clarified a path to build highly polluting coal-fired power plants, earthquake-prone studies authorized in the Atlantic Ocean that could damage marine animals and open millions of acres of land in the West for extraction and fracking, stripping the protections for an almost threatened bird species.
White House officials said the rollback of Obama's legislation had been going on for months and the ad time a few days after the November 23 release of the National Climate Assessment were random. But experts have said that the Trump administration has clearly accelerated its energy program this year, as the president tries to block changes in the rules, which can take months to be finalized, before the end of his first mandate.
Republican administrations have traditionally been more lenient than Democrats over environmental regulations, but Trump has overseen a change that is "much, much bigger," said Bruce Buckheit, who served in the Environmental Protection Division. Agency.
"They want to do things that can not be canceled by the next administration," Buckheit said. "This is their time to continue driving".
For Trump, the moves reinforce his conviction that climate warnings – transmitted with increasing urgency by scientists who say politicians are wasting time to prevent disasters caused by rising temperatures – are fueling a false hysteria about the planet's future.
Rather than moderating his views, the president made it clear that he and his advisors "are not necessarily such believers," as he said in a recent Washington Post interview.
The National Climate Assessment, under a congressional mandate, warned that temperatures could rise to 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit in the continental United States by 2050, triggering destructive and expensive heat waves and extreme weather events.
"I do not see it," Trump told The Post.
That message was delivered beyond the American coast. At the Group of 20 summit in Argentina at the end of November, all nations except the United States approved a joint declaration reaffirming their commitment to the Paris climate agreement. Trump officials signed the document only after having ensured the insertion of the language emphasizing the decision of the administration to exit the pact of Paris and the right of America to use all forms of energy.
On Monday in Poland, the administration organized a show to promote coal and other fossil fuels. When a group of climate skeptics during the talks in Germany last year defended the administration policies and Trump's statement that climate change is a prank perpetrated by the Chinese, a large group of activists sang, derided and abandoned.
The White House assistants rejected the idea that regulatory changes are in conflict with the climate report, which they have dismissed as focusing on the most extreme scenarios. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters that such modeling contradicts "established trends" and defined the process as "an extremely complicated science that is never exact".
Jeffrey Holmstead, who served as assistant administrator of the EPA in the administration of George W. Bush, said the Trump White House was clear that the report "exaggerates or exaggerates the risk of climate change".
The administration is moving to reverse the actions of the Obama administration that Trump and his collaborators believe have passed governmental authority, Holmstead said. For example, Trump is replacing Obama's Clean Power Plan with an alternative proposal to give states greater autonomy to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
"They think that the people who published that report could be scientists, but maybe they have their own program," said Holmstead, a lawyer and lobbyist from Bracewell, representing energy companies.
That vision does not square with public opinion. A Politico / Morning Consult poll released on Friday showed that two thirds of voters are very or somewhat concerned about the report's findings, with 58% saying they agree with the conclusion that human activity is accelerating climate change.
During a tour last month of the devastation caused by lethal fires in Paradise, California, Trump was asked by a journalist if his skepticism about climate change had changed.
"No, I have a strong opinion," the president replied. "I want a fantastic climate, we will do it".
Climate assessment also contradicts the president's main statement that regulations to reduce greenhouse gas pollution damage the economy.
On the contrary, according to the report, respiratory diseases caused by pollution that lead to sick days for workers and heat-related deaths could hinder economic growth. And flooding roads, blocking transport routes and closing down businesses could cost the economy billions of dollars a year.
Ignoring these warnings, the administration moved this week to abolish restrictions to protect tetraonid habitats on 9 million acres in western land to promote oil exploration and natural gas drilling, widely called fracking and other minerals. Natural gas drilling has created an energy boom that feeds and heats homes, but burning creates more greenhouse gases.
According to the Energy Information Administration, the use of oil accounts for the largest amount of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States – 46 percent. The consumption of natural gas, at 29 percent, reduced coal, to 26 percent, according to the Energy Information Administration.
On Thursday, Trump's administration announced its plan to reverse an Obama administration rule that requires coal-fired power plants to install technologies that capture and reduce their carbon emissions.
The EPA administrator, Andrew Wheeler, who exerted pressure on a major coal company and other energy interests before joining the administration this year, said that the costs of technology have made new coal plants not feasible. Indeed, coal-fired power plants are falling sharply, with the amount of coal used in energy generation declining by 53% since 2006, as the use of natural gas increased by 33%, according to the information provided from & # 39; administration.
Republicans in regions that are producers or users of coal have applauded Trump.
"For eight years, President Obama has landed a gunshot in his coal war," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) Said on Thursday. "Now President Trump's EPA is also targeting another regulation that would have made it almost impossible to build new plants in the future, which is a crucial step towards eliminating damage and restoring coal in equal conditions ".
Buckheit, the former EPA official, said it was unlikely to open new coal plants. Rather, he said, the action of the administration was "in many ways symbolic". This is playing at the base. "
That political message put Trump's aides in the uncomfortable position of trying to explain the apparent dichotomy of his regulatory agenda with the conclusions of climate assessment. In an interview with a Canadian television network, US Ambassador Kelly Craft publicly ridiculed when he said he respected "both sides of science" on climate change.
"I believe there are scientists on both sides that are accurate," he said.
Supporters said the administration was unjustly criticized by activists who do not accept that it is unrealistic to assume that the world can quickly switch to renewable energy sources.
"I understand that the Trump administration is not popular in those contexts," said Holmstead of climate conferences worldwide. "But I think they have an important point: the only practical way in many parts of the world to have electricity or freedom of transportation is to burn a fossil fuel, just trying to say that we can no longer talk about fossil fuels is to whistle over the cemetery ".
Juliet Eilperin, Chris Mooney and Brady Dennis contributed to this relationship.