by Bruce Dunlavy
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For most of its existence, the administration of President Donald Trump has ignored the most important issue facing the world today, the issue of climate change. For over two years, Trump (and, by extension, the Republican Party, which seems unable to be anything but the Party of Trump) has looked at climate change like an irresponsible lawnkeeper looks at poison ivy. Any or all of the following responses apply:
• It’s not there.
• OK, it’s there, but it’s normal.
• You can’t do anything about it, that’s just the way lawns are.
• Any attempt to mitigate it would cost too much.
• We need to reinforce practices that cause the spread of poison ivy.
• The threat of poison ivy is a hoax made up by neighbors who want to see us misdirect our resources to combating it.
The litany could be continued ad nauseam, but you get the idea. Any excuse to ignore this problem is trotted out whenever the issue comes up. Sometimes it’s one thing, sometimes another. There is no consistency or order to it. Think of it like peeling an onion. If you manage to successfully dismantle one argument, there’s another equally invalid one underneath it, and you have to peel that one away. Then there’s another, and another.
Each one is unscientific, illogical, and unsound. But the effort required to demonstrate that requires more effort, time, and explanation, while the response is an uninformed sentence or two or a Twitter catch phrase. “The Earth’s climate is cyclical.” “One or two degrees of temperature rise can’t matter.” “There can’t be global warming because it was really cold here last winter.”
There are many (including me) who view climate change caused by global warming – which is in turn caused by human activity – as the most important crisis facing the world. There is not a single issue relevant to the present and future of humanity that is not affected by climate change. Four years ago I wrote about the direct connection between climate change and war. If climate change can be directly responsible for war, addressing it is vital.
Now, in its third year, the Trump administration has simply come out and said, “Even if climate change is real and its consequences as dire as everyone says, we don’t care. If the situation will soon be irreversible, we intend to go on ignoring it and encouraging others to do the same.”
Last October, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report laying out the consequences of a rise in atmospheric temperatures of 1.5 degrees Celsius above the levels in the pre-industrial era. The report, which took three years for its 91 authors to produce, starkly states that there is a very small window of opportunity – about 20 years – to prevent worldwide climate catastrophe. If nothing is done to mitigate climate change before 2040, the report warns, there will be no stopping calamity. The only thing standing between humanity and disaster is political will, something strong in many countries, weak in some, but present in all. All, that is, except the United States of America.
The Trump administration, having already denied climate science, pulled the USA out of the Paris Climate Accords, slashed regulations designed to prevent off-shore oil-drilling leaks, appointed anti-environmentalists to head the Environmental Protection Agency, rolled back rules on coal producers and users, opened public lands to oil and gas exploration and drilling, and otherwise promoted the increase of the very activities that are responsible for global warming/climate change.
Image credit: woodenfort.com
Now Trump and his cronies are taking extra steps to hide the impact of their work to destroy climate change initiatives. James Reilly, head of the U. S. Geological Survey (and himself a petroleum geologist) has ordered USGS scientists to use only computer models predicting climate change as far as 2040. Until now, the models used have extended predictions through the year 2100. As noted above, 2040 is the year after which the most calamitous results of climate change will be apparent. Thus from now on the government’s reports will show a more benign future than is actually anticipated.
Philip Duffy, head of the Woods Hole Research Center, called out the chicanery involved in this action, describing it as “a pretty blatant attempt to politicize the science – to push the science in a direction that’s consistent with their politics.” In a previous post I described and illustrated the damage that is done when political motivations control scientific research. In the case of climate change, the potential results of allowing political positions to direct scientific research and information distribution are far worse than any confronted before.
What is to be done? Of course we must act, and we must act now. It is vital that we pressure our elected officials and use our voting power to reward those who support free scientific inquiry and reporting and to punish those who do not. We must study and learn, tell our friends, and publicize our concern. The key word is “now.” The effects of global warming are like the effects of emphysema: you don’t notice the problem enough to pay attention until you cannot draw an easy breath, and then it is too late to correct things.
Perhaps the most important and effective way to make a change is through the courts. Again, however, time is vital. The legal system is slow, and it can be made slower by opponents of change. The case of Juliana, et al. v. United States is still active and has achieved milestones not previously thought possible. Brought on behalf of 21 young people, including my friend and activist/artist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez (whom I have written about so much that he has his own category listing in this blog site), Juliana contends that the government of our country is abandoning its duty to ensure a livable planet for future generations, and demands that climate change be addressed now.
Juliana has been thrown roadblock after procedural roadblock by the Trump administration, and it has defeated them repeatedly. Twice efforts by the government to stop the case have reached the U. S. Supreme Court, and both times it has been defeated.
A change in the administration’s anti-environmental activities is overdue. It is up to us all to refocus our attention away from the petty tribal issues that are employed to misdirect and divide us while the Earth is destroyed by the interests of money. We must unite to save our planet and the future of humanity.