The Trump regime has trafficked in self-parody since its inception, so perhaps we’re already numb to the news that it intends to challenge the scientific consensus that climate change is a dire international emergency.
You heard that right. Even though the federal government’s National Climate Assessment officially warned in November that the planet is truly imperiled, and even though a U.N. report in October compared the climate change crisis (in the words of one U.N. official) to “a deafening, piercing smoke alarm going off in the kitchen,” and even though Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats warned in January that climate change poses a significant national security risk, Donald Trump is nevertheless hiring some flat Earth believers who will likely ratify his belief that climate change is a “hoax” that poses no threat to our national security.
This ad hoc coterie of deniers reportedly will be spearheaded by a National Security Council adviser named William Happer, a guy with no formal training as a climate scientist. Happer, who has taken money from the fossil fuel industry, says the carbon emissions that precipitate climate change are “not a pollutant at all,” that they’re “actually a benefit to the Earth.” Happer has stated in the past that “the demonization” of carbon emissions “is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler,” which is apparently his way of comparing climate scientists to Nazis.
How did we wind up with quacks who are so blind to reality?
One credentialed climate expert — retired Navy Rear Adm. David Titley, former chief operating officer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — expressed his disgust: “I never thought I would live to see the day in the United States where our own White House is attacking the very science agencies that can help the president understand and manage the climate risks to security of today and tomorrow. Such attacks are un-American.”
Actually, it’s no mystery how we’ve lived to see this day. This day was guaranteed when 46 percent of the electorate chose as its president a flat-Earth crank who tweeted in 2014 that “GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop!” and has never masked his hostility to science. A pivotal 77,000 swing voters in three Rust Belt states decided that it didn’t matter.
Trump aides told the press this weekend that he’s looking for a “mixture of opinions” on whether climate change is a threat to the United States because he “wants people to be able to decide for themselves.” In truth, the American people — echoing the scientific consensus —have already decided for themselves. According to the latest NBC News-Wall Street Journal survey, 66 percent say climate change is a “serious problem” that requires action; only 30 percent say otherwise. (Most of the naysaying 30 percent are Republicans. The GOP is the only major party in the western world that denies science. Trump didn’t create its attitude, but now it abets him.)
At a time when “we are adding planet-warming carbon dioxide to the atmosphere at a rate faster than at any point in human history since the beginning of industrialization” (in the words of David Wallace-Wells, author of the forthcoming book “The Uninhabitable Earth”), we can ill afford a “leader” who mimics the attitude of the 17th-century church when it was confronted with Galileo’s conclusion that the Earth circles the sun. We’re saddled with someone who disses the expertise of the Pentagon— which warned way back in 2003, during the Bush administration, that climate change “should be elevated beyond a scientific debate to a U.S. national security concern.”
When Trump was asked last November whether climate change poses a major threat to America, he replied: “I don’t see it.” Hence his desire for a “mixture of opinions” that would ratify what he doesn’t want to see — even though the Pentagon has repeatedly seen it. In 2008, the Pentagon weighed in on a report that outlined “the National Security Implications of Global Climate Change.” In 2010, it again detailed its concerns in a “defense review.” In 2014, it did so again, in this fashion:
“As greenhouse gas emissions increase, sea levels are rising, average global temperatures are increasing, and severe weather patterns are accelerating. These changes, coupled with other global dynamics, including growing, urbanizing, more affluent populations, and substantial economic growth in India, China, Brazil, and other nations, will devastate homes, land, and infrastructure. Climate change may exacerbate water scarcity and lead to sharp increases in food costs. The pressures caused by climate change will influence resource competition while placing additional burdens on economies, societies, and governance institutions around the world. These effects are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions – conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.”
That Pentagon report was five years ago; since then, the severity of the crisis has only worsened. If Trump were to stop playing tin soldier on our Mexican border, perhaps he’d be capable of confronting our true national emergency. But that’s a futile hope. Only a regime change in 2020 would reorient us toward science — if it’s not too late.