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NASA chief fully accepts dominant human role in global warming

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine seen before a rocket launch on May 5, 2018.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine watches the launch of NASA's InSight spacecraft on May 5, 2018 at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Credit: Aubrey Gemignani/NASA via Getty Images.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on Wednesday endorsed the findings of a major federal report — which reflects the wider scientific consensus — that human activities are the main driver of global warming.

Why it matters: Bridenstine's remarks before a Senate Appropriations panel make him the first top Trump administration official to publicly and fully agree that humans have been the dominant cause of warming.

The impact: His comments are also significant because NASA plays a leading role in federal climate monitoring and research.

  • Bridenstine made similar comments at a NASA town hall last week, but those remarks stopped shy of fully acknowledging the dominant role of human-caused emissions.

One level deeper: Bridenstine also endorsed a multi-agency federal report, largely written in the Obama years, but released in 2017, that strongly reaffirmed this consensus.

"The National Climate Assessment, that includes NASA, and it includes the Department of Energy, and it includes NOAA, has clearly stated that it is extremely likely . . . that human activity is the dominant cause of global warming, and I have no reason to doubt the science that comes from that."
— Bridenstine in response to a question from Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz

Asked if he agreed with the scientific consensus, backed by experts including NASA researchers, that humans are the leading cause of climate change, Bridenstine responded: "Yes."

In the past, Bridenstine has expressed skepticism of mainstream climate science, and on Wednesday he acknowledged that his views have evolved.

Go deeper: The Climate Science Special Report