A Trumping We Will Go: Part 1
For the past six weeks, President-elect Trump (wow) has been busy at work building the foundations of his administration. We’ve seen Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, Senator Jeff Sessions, General Mike Flynn, and Representative Mike Pompeo, General James Mattis, and Rex Tillerson (double wow) among those already tapped. Obviously Mike Pence has been on the scene for a while. Though many of these candidates must pass Senate confirmation, the picture of Trump’s White House is becoming clearer. Based on these individuals, the perspective they bring, and what Trump has already done since the election, we are able to generate some very initiatory predictions in key policy areas. This will be a multiple part series.
PART 1: The Environment
Anyone who has read a moderately liberal newspaper since the election is generally familiar with the prospects of what a Trump presidency means to the future of human civilization. For those who are not, a brief recap of the situation we now find ourselves in is essential.
While most mainstream journalists were trying to make sense of Trump’s improbable victory, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released their Provisional Statement on the Status of Global Climate 2016. It is the most recent in a series of dire warnings from the scientific community, which declared worldwide temperatures to be 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This is dangerously close to the 1.5 degrees Celsius warming limit that was agreed to by 195 countries at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris last December. For a frame of reference, 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels has long been regarded as a tipping point, first identified by William Nordhaus, which takes “the climate outside of any temperature pattern observed in the last 100,000 years.” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas mused in the report that “The high temperatures we saw in 2015 are set to be beaten in 2016. In parts of Russia, temperatures were 6 degrees Celsius to 7 degrees Celsius above long term average…We are used to measuring temperature records in fractions of a degree, so this is different.” The report goes on the detail some of the alarmingly extreme weather events the world has experienced in the past year, including the most destructive wild fire in Canadian history and deadly flooding across China, Sri Lanka, and Mali.
This is the backdrop against which Mr. Trump has declared global warming a “hoax invented by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive”, part of a larger and dangerous trend within the Republican party of either denying that climate change is happening, or insisting that human activity is not it's root cause. The “Energy Independence” section of greatagain.gov declares that: “Rather than continue the current path to undermine and block America’s fossil fuel producers, the Trump administration will encourage the production of these resources by opening onshore and offshore leasing on federal waters and lands…it’s all upside: more jobs, more revenue, more wealth, higher wages, and lower energy prices.” Mr. Trump will “be guided true specialists in conservation, not those with radical political agendas.”
Myron Ebell, Trump’s pick to lead the EPA transition team, is literally the textbook definition of a guy with a radical political agenda. Mr. Ebell is the director of the Center of Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, an advocacy group with long ties to tobacco disinformation campaigns and more recently climate denial. Their most generous donors include Texaco, Exxon Mobile, and the American Petroleum Institute—true specialists in conservation. Mr. Ebell, who has no scientific background, has made it his pride and joy to propel a shift in the debate about climate change. In a 2012 interview with FRONTLINE, he told PBS that he was heartened by real progress in this regard, but that there still were “…holdouts among the urban bicoastal elite”, adding, “We need to keep banging away at the science.” He has no shame about taking on the entirety of the scientific community, calling the consensus around global warming “phony” and “not based on science.” If he’s wrong, Mr. Ebell at least admits that “I’ll have to say I’m sorry and I wish we could speed up our efforts to reverse the policies that we have supported here at CEI.” His apology is likely to be of little consolation to future Americans generations hence, forced to survive in a world far more dangerous than we have ever experienced as a species.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has produced four representation concentration pathways depicting various scenarios for the future of humanity based on the actions taken right now. Given Mr Trump’s record, who he associates with, and the fact that the entire government is now in control of like minded climate change deniers, it’s safe to say that we have started down the “Highest Emissions Pathway” where annual carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise through 2100. In this grim scenario, the critical 2 degrees celsius tipping point is reached by 2045, with overall global temperatures reaching 4.8 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels by the turn of the century. 38% of the projected global population will face reduced renewable groundwater resources, sea levels will rise by 100cm and even higher in tropical areas, and critical ecosystem functions will be lost. Extreme weather events “that today occur once in a hundred years could become the new normal.” This will drain the United States of trillions upon trillions of dollars, not to mention the unprecedented humanitarian costs and the inevitable threats to national security. As Mr. Trump says, it’s all upside.
“A 4 degrees world must be avoided,” says Dr. Jim Yong Kim of the World Bank Group. “Scientists agree that countries’ current United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change emission pledges and commitments would most likely result in 3.5 to 4°C warming.” This is the same commitment that Trump has declared he will rip apart, despite public opinion strongly supporting US participation in the agreement. An already fragile deal would be doomed without the cooperation of the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases on the planet, and rise of 4 degrees celsius by the end of the century becomes frighteningly probable. “It would be so dramatically different from today’s world that it would be hard to describe accurately,” continues Dr. Kim. “…the fact that such scenarios cannot be discarded is sufficient to justify strengthening current climate change policies.”
For a candidate so tough on national security, Mr. Trump seems callously indifferent to the long term well being of the population. As long as he and his energy team continue to “bang away at the science” and advocate for the hastened destruction of the human race, America will never be safe. Trump voters better have a great explanation ready for their grandkids, if we even make it that far (more on that in Part 2 of this series, coming soon).