Focus at Four: Discussing climate change in the new year

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It’s been a turbulent year for natural disasters. Massive hurricanes in the south and Caribbean, the largest wildfire in California’s history and the year came to a close with record cold temperatures seizing much of the country.

Some groups are concerned about America’s climate future.

"This isn’t a question of if it’s happening the real uncertainty is really how fast it will accelerate," Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO at the Rainforest Trust said.

Salaman called climate change a national priority. He said this isn’t just an environmental issue but an economical one. He said it is hitting America’s wallet and costing billions of dollars in damages. Salaman said there are plenty of solutions and they all can be tackled.

“How as individuals we go about our lives, how we consume, we’re finding things like 500 million plastic straws are consumed everyday in restaurants in the U.S. things like this could be reduced," he added.

Climate Matters meteorologist Sean Sublette joined First News at Four to discuss the Rainforest Trust's findings as well as his own at Climate Matters.

"It kind of reinforces where the science is right now," said Sublette. "The earth is warming, and it's warming mostly due to human effects. That's the increase in greenhouse gases and primarily that would be carbon dioxide."

Sublette says natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey likely were worse thanks to climate change.

"We're not saying Harvey was caused by climate change, but what we are saying is that we have done data analysis, and in a slightly warmer atmosphere like we have today, the odds of having a storm like Harvey are about three times as great as they were about a century ago," said Sublette. "And the precipitation was about 15 percent higher than any pre-warming world."

Sublette explained the difference between climate and day-to-day weather.

"Weather is the conditions on any given day," said Sublette. "Climate is the longer term average of those conditions. For example, the Houston Astros won the World Series. They're the world champions. But, on occasion, they still had a bad game. They were shut out. They don't win all of their games. So there are also going to still be some cold spells in a warming world. Winter doesn't go away."

Back in Washington, D.C., President Donald Trump is bringing the conversation back to climate change. Tweeting just last week, "In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!"

In the past year he’s rolled back several Obama era-energy policies and opted to leave to Paris agreement on climate change. The US became the only country not in the deal.

“It was a mischaracterization by some as an abandonment of the environment when really it was just an abandonment of a bad deal but the speech itself praised America’s commitment to environmental stewardship very strongly,' Michael Anton, the Trump Administration’s Senior National Security Official said.

Anton defended President Trumps’ environmental policy. Even as Trump left talk of climate change out of his recent national security threats' list. Anton said he’s just keeping the focus on defense and economy. He added that Trump didn't push the environment aside in his agenda.

“It does talk about the importance of environmental stewardship, it does praise America’s record as a clean energy leader and innovator and asserts that America will remain as such going forward," Anton added.

Still, scientists like Salaman are worried. He suggests a 2018 resolution to really consider the environment.

Over the holiday break, the Trump administration continued their rollback of some of Obama’s energy policies. It signals more environmental change is to come in the New Year.