A new "addendum" to be released as soon as this week purports to update with the latest science a 2009 federal assessment on the impacts to the United States of climate change.
The addendum matches the layout and design of the original, published by the U.S. Global Change Research Program: Cover art, "key message" sections, table of contents are all virtually identical, down to the chapter heads, fonts and footnotes.
But the new report comes from the conservative Washington, D.C.-based Cato Institute. And its findings – that science is questionable, the impacts negligible and the potential policy solutions ineffective – are more a rebuke than a revision of the original report and of accepted science both then and today.
"It's not an addendum. It's a counterfeit," said John Abraham, an associate professor at the University of Saint Thomas in Minnesota who studies clean power sources. "It's a continued effort to kick the can down the road: A steady drip, drip, drip of fake reports by false scientists to create a false sense of debate."
The 2009 assessment, titled Global Change Impacts in the United States, was presented to Congress as the federal government's best assessment of the science and potential impacts. It is part of an ongoing effort by the National Climatic Data Center to assess the state of climate change science.
The Cato Institute bills its report as a "primary reference and a guidepost for those who want to bring science back into environmental protection." In the introduction to a review copy obtained by DailyClimate.org, Cato president Ed Crane wrote that the effort "grew out of the recognition that the original document was lacking in scope and relevant scientific detail."
The Cato report does its share of omitting, however, as well as selectively picking data and reviving long-discredited data and arguments.
The first example is on the cover: Both reports show a satellite image of the United States, with a bar-chart showing temperature changes running along the bottom. Yet the original 2009 report graphs the dramatic rise in global temperatures from 1900 through 2008, while the Cato report uses a much smaller subset – temperatures only from the United States, and just from 1991 through 2010 – to show a seemingly random pattern.
The 2009 report warned that widespread climate effects are occurring now and are expected to increase. Climate change, it concluded, will "stress water resources" and challenge crop and livestock production.
Cato's addendum counters that "observed impacts of climate change have little national significance." Climate change will simply "affect" water resources, while crop and livestock production, it says, can adapt to forecast change.
The science and evidence since 2009 supports the National Climate Center's assessment, however: Military brass are retooling operations and policies for a changed world, while this summer's drought will cost the U.S. economy an estimated $70 billion to $100 billion.
Both reports dedicate a chapter to transportation. Both illustrate key points with a photograph of a big rig, shot low to the ground from the driver's side.
But while the federal report warns of disruptions and infrastructure damage, the Cato Institute concludes the nation can adapt. Again, evidence this summer supports the federal authors, with drought stranding barge traffic on the Mississippi River and an unprecedented downpour in Duluth, Minn., causing an estimated $100 million in damage to roads and railways.