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Let's face reality 

Don't let President Trump bury the climate change facts

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, the Trump administration quietly released a climate change report it tried to keep hidden from the public. Since the fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA) was made public, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not mentioned the NCA in any press releases or on their social media pages.

I refuse to allow them to bury the facts about one of the greatest challenges of our lifetime.

This official report tells us what many have suspected—climate change is here; carbon emissions produced by humans have greatly worsened its effects; and the sooner we act to reduce carbon emissions, the better chance we have to mitigate its impacts.

You may wonder why this administration would release a scientific report that contradicts so many of the president's tweets and the administration's own energy policies. The answer is that the law requires it.

Congress established the United States Global Change Research Program and required the release of a NCA at least every four years. This non-partisan report, produced by scientists across 13 federal agencies, is meant to answer questions about climate change's impact on communities across the country and help prepare us for the future.

Frustratingly, the administration has not taken the warnings seriously and even the president remarked that he "didn't believe" certain findings in the report. Nearly a week after the report was released, acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler still had not read it or discussed its findings with the president.

Their policies reflect their unwillingness to accept—or even read—the facts. Despite this, the administration has moved to expose even more of the Central Coast's public lands to oil and gas drilling and has attempted to revoke California's waiver for car emissions standards to reduce air pollution in our state.

A significant portion of the report outlines the particularly acute and damaging transformation that coastal communities like ours will experience. Sea levels have risen 7 to 8 inches since 1900 and could rise as much as 8 feet by 2100, drastically altering our coastline and leaving our communities vulnerable to coastal erosion and storm surge. The projected environmental transformations will drastically impact the coastal property market and will put a heavy strain on public infrastructure.

The effects of climate change and extreme weather have cost the United States more than $400 billion since 2015. High summer temperatures and an extended heat wave season are also leading to severe droughts and are putting our lives in danger of illness or death, with our most vulnerable populations facing the highest risks.

The report also discusses the growing intensity and frequency of wildfires, a reality that our own community has experienced. The costs associated with wildfires continue to increase. The U.S. spends $1 billion annually on average to fight wildfires, but we spent more than $2 billion in 2015, and more than $2.9 billion in 2017.

The Central Coast is already facing the devastating effects of climate change, and we must act now to address the very real threat it poses to our community, including rising sea levels, drought, and a year-round fire season. We are also perfectly positioned to lead the fight toward cutting greenhouse gas emissions, reducing climate-related risks, and transitioning toward more sustainable energy sources.

If we act fast, we still have an opportunity to research and implement new and progressive strategies. We must explore the options that will allow us to cut down coal usage, and instead utilize renewable energy sources both at a higher rate and in a financially prudent way.

Most importantly, we need leaders in government willing to support the expanding need for information, foster collaboration between various levels of government and nongovernmental entities, and produce and communicate timely, scientifically sound climate information for the nation.

It's difficult to comprehend climate changes and their effects on the scale that this report anticipates, with deadly ramifications. The bottom line is that because human activity has been a contributing factor to our current environmental challenges, we must believe that we also have the power to come together and find viable solutions. Δ

U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal represents the 24th Congressional District of California. The district includes the entirety of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, and a portion of Ventura County. Send comments through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com or respond with a letter to editor for publication emailed to letters@newtimesslo.com.

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