(This piece was originally published on August 11, 2017 in the Chicago Tribune.)

The draft report on climate change by scientists from 13 federal agencies released earlier this year issued a warning about human-caused global warming, but didn’t surprise some experts.

David Konisky, associate professor of public and environmental affairs at Indiana University in Bloomington, said the Climate Science Special Report largely confirmed what most people already knew.

“I didn’t see anything terribly surprising in the report,” he said. “The science community has been moving in this direction in terms of their certainty about not just the human contribution to climate change but what the impacts are going to look like. They’ve been telling us this for a long time.”

The average temperature in the United States has increased appreciably in the past four decades and “stronger evidence” has emerged citing human activity as the primary culprit behind the rapid warming of the global atmosphere and ocean, the report said.

“It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warning since the mid-20th century,” the report said.

The report is mandated by Congress and is supposed to be issued every four years.

“This report kind of puts an exclamation point on what we already knew about the seriousness of the situation,” said Sam Henderson, an attorney with the Hoosier Environmental Council.

Citing coal-fired plants in southern Indiana and heavy industry in Northwest Indiana, Henderson said Indiana has its own set of global warming challenges.

“Every community has a stake in it and a part we have to work on to make this a cleaner, safer place.”

The report says that evidence proves that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are primarily responsible for the observed climate changes in the industrial era.

“It’s no longer about putting emission into the atmosphere and worrying about impacts later,” Konisky said. “We’re now able to demonstrate that these emissions are creating current problems.”

In the Midwest, the annual average temperature has already increased 1.26 degrees since 1901-1960 and is projected to rise another 5.29 degrees by the middle of this century and 9.49 degrees by the end of the century, if carbon pollution is not reduced, the report says.

Konisky said he is unsure how the White House, which announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change in June, will view the report but he hopes it results in policy change.

“In the ideal world this report is the start of a conversation, not the conclusion of one and policy makers then start taking information and try to come up with policies to address the problem as best they can,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, said this report demonstrates that climate change is real and that decisive action must be taken to “address this severe threat.”

“I remain committed to being a good steward of our planet by supporting conservation and sustainable, clean energy sources so that we may pass on an improved planet to future generations,” he said in an email.

Bowden Quinn, president for the Indiana chapter of the Sierra Club, said he hopes the report is taken under serious advisement by the current administration because there must be some policies implemented to curtail some of the harmful effects of climate change.

“We need policies to reduce use of coal and fossil fuel,” he said. “We can’t ignore science.”

Henderson said it’s hard to be optimistic with information validating the acceleration of global warming.

“When you realize that we’re dealing with levels of warmth we haven’t seen in 100 years, there’s no explaining around that. We see how disruptive things can be and if things keep going at this rate it’s not going to leave any part of Indiana or the country unscathed.”

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