When it comes to discussing the facts about climate change, you would think that this administration is literally living on another planet. We all know President Trump is capable of lies and mistruths on a daily basis, but even by those standards, he continues to display an astounding level of ignorance about the realities of global warming and changing weather patterns. Despite his claims of a genius level IQ, Trump clearly flunked basic science class, as evidenced by his recent policy statement.
“I believe that there’s a change in weather, and I think it changes both ways,” he said. “Don’t forget, it used to be called global warming. That wasn’t working. Then it was called climate change. Now it’s actually called extreme weather because, with extreme weather, you can’t miss.”
Well, it’s pretty clear that someone is missing something, such as the irrefutable facts. Surveys of the peer-reviewed scientific data and the opinions of experts consistently show a 97% consensus that human activity is clearly impacting global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has just completed its fourth assessment of the science of its impacts and possible solutions. The panel of 2,500 scientists and other experts declared manmade effects on warming “unequivocal” and wrote that it could lead to climate changes that are “abrupt and irreversible.” If the global temperature rises by 1.5°C in the next 12 years, humans will face unprecedented climate-related risks and weather events. This is the most extensive warning thus far on the risks of rising global temperatures with massive and permanent ramifications.
Meanwhile, the Trump Administration’s strategy is to simply deny and focus on any uncertainties. They know the climate is changing, they know that human activity is contributing in some form, but it’s all about supporting their well-funded supporters in the fossil fuel industry. That’s why find they’ve hired all these anti-climate change think tanks to create misinformation and doubt and force Democrats to face a stalling strategy in the lower courts that could carry past the election. But when these people say, “Well, how do you know that climate’s changing?” I say, “Just look at global weather patterns, watch the news from around the country and most of all, open your freakin’ windows.”
We’re seeing bizarre weather extremes in all directions. Glaciers melting, seas levels rising, longer droughts and extensive flooding, prolonged heat waves and extreme cold spells, more powerful hurricanes and numbers of tornadoes. On May 11 in a town near the entrance to the Arctic Ocean in northwest Russia. “The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eclipsed 415 parts per million for the first time in human history. On May 30, the National Weather Service declared that in the continental U.S. “There’s never been a wetter 12 months than the period that recently ended” — since it began keeping records 124 years ago, devastating Midwestern farmers and hammering nearby U.S. military bases.
The latest science-defying salvo from the White House announced by the EPA (environmental protection clearly being an oxymoron), is The Affordable Clean Energy rule. This will replace former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan to reduce planet-warming pollution from coal plants, which set national emissions limits and mandated the reconstruction of power grids to move utilities away from coal. The Clean Power Plan was suspended by the Supreme Court after challenges from 28 states and hundreds of companies and the new measure gives states broad authority to decide how far, if at all, to scale back emissions.
The president has also announced his plan to weaken auto-mileage standards, even though the world’s largest automakers warned him that his plan threatens to cut their profits and produce untenable instability in a crucial manufacturing sector. Trump also has to understand that California is not going to lower their standards, so you’re going to bifurcate the market, which is just a nightmare for auto manufacturers.
Perhaps, the most egregious action take by this administration is blocking what military and intelligence experts say are threats to our national security. The State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research carefully crafted written testimony calling climate change ‘possibly catastrophic’, and White House Officials sought to excise the State Department’s comments on climate science because they did not mesh with the administration’s stance. The move came after State officials refused to excise the document’s references to federal scientific findings on climate change. Senior military and intelligence officials have continued to warn that climate change could undermine the United States’ national security — a position President Trump rejects.
The climate change debate addresses a classic political challenge: asking people to pay hard costs today for unclearly defined benefits in the future. Economically, that’s very difficult and Democrats haven’t stressed enough that good environmental policy is good economic policy. If they’re going to make it a winning message, they will have to talk about all the jobs that are being created because the solar industry already employs more people in the US than the entire fossil-fuel extraction industry. And rather than paint in broad strokes with a massive-pie-in-the-sky “Green New Deal,” break climate change down into specific actions with realistic timetables and explain in practical terms where the funds will come from.
As we enter a new election cycle, Democrats must also make clear that flooded cities, farms inundated with water, the prolonged devastation of hurricanes, droughts, wildfires and floods, record-breaking heat and cold snaps, aren’t just isolated events, but an interrelated pattern of climate change. They need to clearly market this message, as it becomes more and more a fact of everyday life. Up to now, climate change has not been an issue that drives people to the polls and the Trump Administration continues to deny and obfuscate, even when they know it’s a risk. If Democrats can finally connect the dots, we’ll be close to a tipping point where people are going to start voting on the issue.
This country is faced with an essential conundrum when it comes to climate change: you can pay me now or pay me later. We are losing precious years, due to inaction and ignorance and Democrats must promote a longer-term transition plan from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. The GOP has also gone from a party, debating how to address climate change, to one largely denying its very existence. It’s time to force the Republican Party to pay the price for its lack of sensible environmental policy. And the best way to put a real carbon tax on the GOP will be at the ballot box in 2020.