NOAA Neglects to Connect Human Activity to Greenhouse Gases

Published Jul 11, 2017

A news release from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration failed to link greenhouse gas emissions to human activity.

What happened: A news release from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration failed to link greenhouse gas emissions to human activity.  Language used by NOAA sharply contrasts that of Obama-era news releases, which clearly asserted that human-emitted gases are the cause of global temperature rise.

Why it matters: The language used in NOAA’s announcement downplays the role of humans in global climate change and may be part of the Trump Administration’s broader mission to dismantle climate change policy.

On July 11, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration announced that the Annual Greenhouse Gas Index (AGGI), a measurement used to track the warming effects of long-lived greenhouse gases, has increased by 40 percent since 1990. The AGGI tracks five primary greenhouse gases - carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and chlorofluorocarbons - but climate scientists at NOAA say that recent global temperature rise is primarily attributable to increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide.

While NOAA’s announcement recognizes the effect of greenhouse gases on the climate, it fails to mention that increased greenhouse gas emissions are the result of human activity. Past NOAA news releases have made this assertion. In 2016, NOAA stated that “human activity has increased the direct warming effect of carbon dioxide,” and in 2014 said that “the warming influence from human-emitted gases continues to increase.”

A NOAA spokesman acknowledged that language linking humans to greenhouse gas emissions was not included in the news release. Jim Butler, director of NOAA’s global monitoring division, and Stephen A. Montzka, a NOAA research chemist, declined to discuss the agency’s decision not to mention the human connection to greenhouse gas emissions.

NOAA’s failure to recognize this link may be a product of President Trump’s broader plan to eliminate Obama-era climate change policies. Executive Order 13783, signed by President Trump on March 28, removed regulations designed to minimize the US carbon footprint and combat climate change. Websites for the Department of the Interior, the Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency have already been stripped of any information on climate change and government scientists within the Department of Energy’s Office of Climate and Clean Energy have been ordered not to use climate-change language in their communications. Furthermore, the Department of Energy announced last month that it will be shutting down its Office of Climate Change Technology. This pattern of events signifies that climate science is under attack.