Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, October 13, 2020


Howard Crystal, (202) 809-6926,

Public Records Sought Over Delays in National Climate Report

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a Freedom of Information Act request today seeking records relating to delays in preparing the Fifth National Climate Assessment. The request for records from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration comes amid government delays in recruiting the dozens of scientists needed to produce the report. The next version is due in 2022, but the agency’s website indicates it is already behind schedule.

The assessment, required by law every four years, summarizes the current and predicted future impacts of climate change on the United States and serves as the guiding document for Congress and federal agencies in setting policy related to global warming.

“Refusing to take the basic steps to prepare the next Climate Assessment is outrageous and dangerous,” said Howard Crystal, a senior attorney at the Center. “We can’t prepare for the droughts, floods, fires and hurricanes to come unless we understand how climate change is affecting our country. Congress set a strict four-year timetable for these reports precisely because timely information related to climate change is so important, and the agency must move forward to comply.”

The Fourth National Climate Assessment was released the day after Thanksgiving in 2018, in an apparent effort to downplay its grave assessment of accelerating climate change and its perils. The report was clear that fossil fuel emissions are the main driver of climate change and that much greater climate action is needed to avoid “substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades.”

The reports have a history of delays. In 2007, in response to a lawsuit from the Center and partners, a judge found the Bush administration had violated the law in delaying production of the Second National Climate Assessment.

In 2017 the Center also sued over records related to the sudden disbanding of a federal climate advisory panel intended to help in the preparation of these assessments.

It’s unclear how delays in recruiting climate scientists will affect the lengthy production of the current report.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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