Droplets of water fall from a melting ice block harvested from Greenland and installed on Place du Pantheon in Paris, France, Dec. 3, 2015 as the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) continues.
Photo by Benoit Tessier/Reuters

Climate scientists preempt possible suppression from White House

— Updated

The New York Times obtained a striking new report on the climate crisis that, under normal circumstances, we wouldn't yet be able to read.

The average temperature in the United States has risen rapidly and drastically since 1980, and recent decades have been the warmest of the past 1,500 years, according to a sweeping federal climate change report awaiting approval by the Trump administration.

The draft report by scientists from 13 federal agencies, which has not yet been made public, concludes that Americans are feeling the effects of climate change right now.... The report was completed this year and is a special science section of the National Climate Assessment, which is congressionally mandated every four years. The National Academy of Sciences has signed off on the draft report, and the authors are awaiting permission from the Trump administration to release it.

What the New York Times obtained, in other words, is an advance look at one of "the most comprehensive climate science reports" ever written. The findings demand the world's attention: we're already feeling the effects of the climate crisis, and without significant action, the problems will only intensify. We know what's causing the crisis and what we must do to address it.

But then there's the story behind the story: this report was leaked for a reason.

Its authors appear to have shared the report with the New York Times because they don't trust the Trump administration -- for fairly obvious reasons. (Trump has argued that climate science is part of a massive conspiracy cooked up by the Chinese to undermine the free-enterprise system. He also appointed an EPA administrator who appears aggressively hostile to the agency and its work.)

And so the leak to the paper of record has become something of an insurance policy: if the administration suppresses the report, we'll know. Just as importantly, if Team Trump demands changes to the report, we'll know that, too.

This, evidently, is how our government works now.

Your move, White House.