A draft of a government report on climate change is painting a dire picture of our planet's present health and its ever-warming future.
The report, compiled by scientists from 13 federal agencies and congressionally mandated to be updated every four years, says recent decades have been the warmest of the past 1,700 years. It also states that it's "extremely likely that more than half of the global mean temperature increase since 1951 was caused by human influence on climate."
The report was initially reported as a leak, but it was not. The report was uploaded by the nonprofit Internet Archive in January; it was not first made public by The New York Times.
The nearly 700-page study comes on the heels of a release from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) declaring that the contiguous United States is having its second-warmest year in more than a century of record keeping. Cities like Bakersfield, California; Reno, Nevada; Salt Lake City and Miami all recently broke records for the hottest Jul and overall hottest month ever recorded. The only year hotter was 2016.
"Many lines of evidence demonstrate that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are primarily responsible for observed climate changes in the industrial era," the report states. “There are no alternative explanations, and no natural cycles are found in the observational record that can explain the observed changes in climate."
According to the research, impacts from climate change are now unavoidable and are already being experienced in every corner of the U.S. Instead of stopping climate change, countries need to work together to mitigate it, drastically reducing emissions and investing in sources of clean energy. Even if emissions were to suddenly stop today, the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere would still lead to a minimum of 0.50 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. Left unchecked, the authors say, the increase in annual average global temperatures relative to pre-industrial times could top 9 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century.
The report also warned about continued, record-breaking temperature increases over the Arctic and their related impacts on the U.S.
“It is very likely that the accelerated rate of Arctic warming will have a significant consequence for the United States due to accelerating land and sea ice melting that is driving changes in the ocean including sea level rise threatening our coastal communities,” the report states.
While policy recommendations are not included, the authors note that a drastic reduction in emissions could keep the average global temperature increase limited to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius); that goal is a focus of the Paris Climate Agreement.
Editor's note: This story originally published on Aug. 9 and has been updated with more recent information.