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Long-Delayed EPA Report Details Dire Nature of Climate Disaster

The Climate Change Indicators site was not updated during Donald Trump’s presidency.

Lisa Winter
Lisa Winter

Lisa joined The Scientist in 2017. As social media editor, some of her duties include creating content, managing interactions, and developing strategies for the brand’s social media presence. She also...

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May 13, 2021

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The US Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Change Indicators website, which explains different facets of our ever-warming planet, had laid dormant since the end of 2016, right before Donald Trump became president. Yesterday (May 12), Michael Regan, EPA administrator, announced the site has been relaunched. It includes data from a 2017 report that had been delayed and then downplayed by the Trump Administration.

“EPA’s Climate Indicators website is a crucial scientific resource that underscores the urgency for action on the climate crisis,” Regan says in the agency’s statement. “With this long overdue update, we now have additional data and a new set of indicators that show climate change has become even more evident, stronger, and extreme—as has the imperative that we take meaningful action.”

On the main page, the website lists human activity as one of the causes of climate change. According to the BBC, this is the first time that the agency has directly acknowledged the role that humans have and continue to play, though experts in the field have been in agreement for nearly a century.  

The updated information does not bear good news when it comes to some of the most well-known indicators. 2016 was the warmest year on record, followed by 2020. Deaths due to heat have grown threefold over the last 80 years. Since 1960, the sea levels along the East and Gulf coasts have risen as much as eight inches in some areas, making devastating flooding more commonplace. The permafrost in Alaska continues to dwindle. And some marine species are being displaced due to rising temperatures while others are being gravely harmed by ocean acidification.

The data illustrate how climate change has and will affect all Americans, albeit in different ways, based on where they live. For instance, the warming climate has extended farmers’ growing season by two weeks, particularly in western states. On the other side of the country, some of the oldest coastal cities settled long before the industrial revolution, such as Boston, are grappling with increased costs of staving back the rising coastline, The Washington Post reports.

See “EPA Purges Trump Administration’s Science Advisors

“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,” says Regan, according to the Post. “Americans are seeing and feeling the impacts up close with increasing regularity.”

In addition to updates to indicators from the previous iteration of the site, there are a dozen additions, including seasonal temperature, Great Lakes ice cover, freeze-thaw conditions, and more.

See “White House Assembles Task Force to Sever Politics from Science

The data on the website were compiled from 50 different sources both in government and academia. The statement from the EPA says that independent experts peer reviewed all of the indicators.

“This site does a great job of compiling a lot of indicators from a lot of different sources,” Kristina Dahl, a senior climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, tells the Post. “So it’s a really important clearinghouse of this kind of information.”