U.S. EPA Issues First Climate Data Update Since 2016

In the five years since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last updated its climate-science scorecard, the world has seen five of the six hottest years on record and California has endured three of its five most destructive wildfires. The number of heatwaves tripled in the last decade from two a year on average in the 1960s. 

The agency today published new data that shows in greater detail than previous updates how global warming is affecting the U.S. 

“We want to reach people in every corner of this country because there is no small town, big city or rural community that's unaffected by the climate crisis,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan. “Americans are seeing and feeling the impact.”

The Climate Change Indicators report draws on peer-reviewed data from 50 different agencies and organizations, and does so in a context emphasizing long-term changes otherwise hard to see, said Brenda Ekwurzel, director of climate science at the Union of Concerned Scientists. "Without the data," she said, "you can't protect people or the environments that we depend on for our livelihoods."

The EPA elevation of climate science comes amid a broader executive-branch push on a cornerstone of President Biden's environmental goals. It represents a major tone-reversal from a Trump administration plagued with allegations of hostility towards science and scientists, and adds to calls to restore scientific integrity in policy making. The data emphasize the impact of climate change on vulnerable populations, particularly Black communities that historically suffer disproportionately from dangerous air and other climate risks.

“Our communities of color, the same communities struggling under the weight of the pandemic, are hardest hit by the impacts of climate change, an unjust reality that we're committed to changing,” Regan said.

Biden's "listen-to-the-science" policy underpins his January executive order on public health and the environment, the first step in changes that have come from both inside and outside the White House. Days after inauguration, a federal judge granted an EPA request to scrap a Trump-era rule that clipped the agency's ability to include decades-old landmark public-health research in public-health policymaking. Regan also ousted members of the EPA Science Advisory Board and Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee in March as part of the science-reset blitz. 

A new Scientific Integrity Task Force, established by a separate executive order, will begin its examination of agency scientific integrity in its first meeting on Friday. The group's four co-chairs include Francesca Grifo, the EPA’s scientific integrity official.

The Obama administration first published a Climate Change Indicators report in 2010, incorporating National Academy of Sciences recommendations from 2004. Updates came every two years until Donald Trump was elected. 

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