Climate scientist who worked on National Climate Assessment refutes Trump's claims about the report on MSNBC

Brenda Ekwurzel: “What the report clearly shows is that climate change is not some distant future threat. It's happening everywhere in the United States.”

From the November 28 edition of MSNBC's MSNBC Live with Velshi and Ruhle:

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ALI VELSHI (HOST): Brenda is a climate scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists. She worked on the national climate assessment. I for one would like to thank you for your work. I don't trust my gut more than I trust other people's brains. It is larger than most people's brains, but it's not better. Brenda, in a recent 60 Minutes interview, the president said scientists have a political agenda in their climate change warnings. So I want to get you on the record. What's your political agenda in this? 

BRENDA EKWURZEL (UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS): There's no politics. The science -- this report is not policy prescriptive. It's looking at the findings and giving an assessment every four years. It's mandated by Congress. And what the report clearly shows is that climate change is not some distant future threat. It's happening everywhere in the United States; Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and U.S. residents are being forced to cope with dangerous heat waves, deadly wildfires, devastating hurricanes, extreme rainfall, and we know that these cost. These climate-related extreme events will only get worse if we continue having unabated heat-trapping emissions. 

VELSHI: Sarah Sanders recently said that this report, quote, “is based on the most extreme scenario and that climate science is never exact.” Tell me a bit about that. Do you recognize that it's inexact and is this the most extreme scenario? 

EKWURZEL: Just for the record, the National Climate Assessment assesses all the scenarios that are used in prior climate assessments, national and international. We use high emission scenarios, lower emission scenarios, and even lower than those emission scenarios. And that's what all the scientists are studying, they're well established and so we show that we could avoid some of the high costs that are outlined in the report if we choose -- and embark upon as a world -- the lower emissions scenario. We could shave the damage costs in the labor sector by nearly a half. We could cut out the cost of extreme heat mortality by nearly 60 percent from the high emissions scenario if we go to the low emissions scenario. 

VELSHI: So there is some nuance in this. I showed a chart from a section of your report earlier, I want to give folks a closer look at it. It's the potential economic damage by sector. You've really broken this out economically, about the places in which this hurts in terms of labor, in terms of cost, in terms of GDP growth. But draw me a line between climate change and damage to these sectors, damage -- you know, economic damage. 

EKWURZEL: Sure. I think a lot of U.S. residents wouldn't be surprised at the one circle that's blue, the cost to coastal properties. Every year the annual average cost towards the end of the century under the high emissions scenario, it could be over $100 billion. However, it could be 22 percent lower if we did an even lower scenario for emissions. And therefore, it really makes a lot of sense to embark upon the Paris climate agreement goals, because we can really shave these damage costs, avoid them, especially if we add adaptation as well.


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