Scientific basis for climate change ‘Endangerment Finding’ is stronger than ever

The scientific evidence supporting a global climate change warning has grown stronger and more conclusive over the past decade, according to an international study involving an academic at the University of Plymouth.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its “Endangerment Finding” in 2009, stating that the build-up of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere posed a danger to public health and welfare.

Now a group of high-profile researchers, including Professor Camille Parmesan from the University’s School of Biological and Marine Sciences, say their findings could strengthen challenges to proposed efforts to roll back emissions standards and carbon emissions regulations in the United States.

Their paper, published in Science, comes three months after it was suggested the Trump Administration might still try to repeal the landmark decision.

Woods Hole Research Center President Philip Duffy, Ph.D., lead author on the paper, said:

“When the Endangerment Finding was issued, the evidence supporting it was extremely compelling. Now, that evidence is even stronger and more comprehensive. There’s no scientific basis for questioning the endangerment finding.”

The paper includes 16 authors from 15 different organisations and assesses how the scientific evidence has changed in the nine years since the initial finding was issued.

It includes a specific focus on the impacts of climate change for public health, air quality, agriculture, forestry, water resources, sea level rise, energy, infrastructure, wildlife, ocean acidification, social instability, and the economy.

It characterizes changes since 2009 in terms of evidence of links to anthropogenic climate change, severity of observed and projected impacts, and new risks.

The study also expands the range of negative impacts beyond those listed in 2009 to include increased dangers from ocean acidification, effects on national security and economic well-being, and even threats from violence.

Researchers say that for each of the areas, the amount, diversity and sophistication of the evidence has increased dramatically, clearly strengthening the case for endangerment.

Professor Parmesan, National Marine Aquarium Chair in the Public Understanding of Oceans and Human Health, said:

"Since 2009, the impacts of climate change on wild species have become more numerous, geographically more wide-ranging, and increasingly complex, as wild plants and animals attempt to cope with an unstable, ever-shifting climate. And we're seeing the very places of most conservation value – our National Parks – being hardest hit by human-caused climate change.

“The estimates used to support the Endangerment Finding were that ~60% of wild species had responded to climate change. We now know we had been severely under-estimating the impacts. With many responses being revealed by newer, more sophisticated analyses, some studies have now documented about 90% of species being impacted by recent climate change.

“Forest fires have not only increased in frequency and severity, but in the past two years have broken out at very bizarre times of the year – like the deadly fires this winter in California, unheard of for the "wet" season. Fires have also broken out in bizarre places, like the peatlands of northern England where the soil was literally burning.”

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