Zinke questions methodology of federal climate report

Zinke questions methodology of federal climate report
© Getty Images

Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeBLM issues final plan for reduced Utah monument New policy at Interior's in-house watchdog clamps down on interactions with press Overnight Energy: EPA proposes scrapping limits on coal plant waste | Appointee overseeing federal lands once advocated selling them | EPA lifts Obama-era block on controversial mine MORE on Tuesday cast doubt on the methodology of the federal government’s major climate change report released last week.

Zinke accused the authors — about 300 scientists from 13 agencies, like the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and outside the government — of using only worst-case scenarios in the report, which concluded, among other things, that climate change could cost the United States economy billions of dollars annually by 2100.

ADVERTISEMENT

“We’re looking at the report. And there’s some concern within the USGS ... that’s our nation’s top scientific body,” he said on KCRA, an NBC affiliate in Sacramento, Calif.

“It appears they took the worst scenarios and they built predictions on that,” he said. “It should be more probability, but we’re looking at it.”

Zinke’s comments reflect one of the White House’s initial criticisms after the report was released Friday.

“The report is largely based on the most extreme scenario, which contradicts long-established trends by assuming that, despite strong economic growth that would increase greenhouse gas emissions, there would be limited technology and innovation, and a rapidly expanding population,” the White House said in a statement.

But at least one key researcher involved in the extensive process of preparing the findings has pushed back on that notion.

“I wrote the climate scenarios chapter myself so I can confirm it considers ALL scenarios, from those where we go carbon negative before end of century to those where carbon emissions continue to rise. What WH says is demonstrably false,” Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University, tweeted Friday.

In his KCRA interview, Zinke accepted the conclusion from that report and others that climate change is making wildfires worse, but he said better forest management — such as removing more trees and brush — is essential to reducing risks.

“Yes, the temperature has risen, the season has gotten longer, but that doesn’t relieve you of the responsibility to manage,” he said. “Whether climate change or not, it doesn’t relieve you of the responsibility to manage the forest.”

Zinke is in California in part to promote, along with Agriculture Secretary Sonny PerdueGeorge (Sonny) Ervin Perdue70 mayors sign letter opposing Trump proposal that would restrict access to food stamps USDA eases relocation timeline as researchers flee agency The Hill's Morning Report - How will Trump be received in Dayton and El Paso? MORE, legislation that would give federal agencies more power to increase logging and take other forest management steps.