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Failing President Spites Climate

June 1, 2017

Trump icesheet graphic

There are a lot of things that make protecting Earth’s climate really hard. Like the fact that fossil fuels are so deeply embedded in our economy and way of life. Or the fact that all policy makers, in every country and at every level of government, demand more economic growth (even though increasing the size of an economy leads to more energy and materials usage, and hence more carbon emissions). Or the scary prospect of planetary feedbacks that might increase the scale of climate impacts far beyond scientists’ forecasts.

Add to that list one Donald J. Trump, the likely soon-to-be-indicted president of a nation that’s rapidly careening toward the fracturing of its financial system, the collapse of its geopolitical influence, and the evaporation of whatever ethical basis for world leadership it may ever have claimed.

It’s easy to be cynically dismissive of Trump’s just-announced exit from the 2015 Paris climate accord: the agreement wasn’t strong enough to actually achieve its goals, and Trump will likely be booted from office one way or another before the agreement withdrawal can take practical effect. However, the symbolism is damning not just of him but of a huge swath of American political culture. Sad.

The one good thing that might emerge from this dreary development is a reinvigorated effort on the part of other nations—plus U.S. state and local governments—to engage in the necessary and inevitable transition away from fossil fuels. Just as Donald Trump often makes policy decisions simply by noting what Barack Obama did, and then doing the opposite, untold millions worldwide are increasingly adopting a similar attitude toward Trump and his merry band of co-conspirators. If Trump hates climate action so much, there must be something good about it.

The best success stories about climate action never emerged from Washington; they came instead from places like northern California, where citizens are creating their own nonprofit electric utility companies committed to expanding renewable energy; from Amsterdam and Copenhagen, which have spent decades minimizing the role of the automobile; and from countless villages throughout the Global South where cheap solar cells and LEDs are reducing the burning of biomass for light.

Read between the lines. “Make America Great Again” roughly translates to: “Don’t look to Washington for examples, guidance, inspiration, or help—especially now. It’s up to you. Get to work!” Thanks for upping our dedication and zeal, Mr. President.

  • Richard Turnbull

    Trump — the Mango Mussolini, Il Trumpolini, the “Grabber-in-Chief ” — is an unintentional organizer of progress for a compassionate, wise conservation of everything that matters. California and New York, and the State of Iowa with its wind-turbines producing 35% of the total energy, will lead the way. Excelsior!
    The writer of this cogent and direct op-ed references ongoing legal investigations. “O what a tangled web we weave/ When first we practice to deceive” wrote the Scots poet.
    The Trump misadministration now has their hapless minions, intoxicated by greed and ego, or always had them, lying their eyes out to each other; what kind of model of governance and respect for ordered liberty is that going to produce?
    These people are truly a threat to the planet, proud of their invincible ignorance of the most basic atmospheric physics. Pump out heat-trapping greenhouse gases, use the oceans and seas as a heat sink, kill the coral reefs and eventually, us, eventually, the entire planet.
    No, Jeebus will not save us, and “Jesus was a good guy, he doesn’t
    need this shiite” — John Prine. Apparently Trump was momentarily moved by the Pope’s message, whatever it was — but a malignant narcissist, come on!
    Cf. A Short History of the Trump Family by Sidney Blumenthal.
    When the plea-bargaining is really rocking, watch the rabid rats jump the sinking ship away to shore, or to a drowning, like Alex Jones weeping on the radio about how “they” have bred humans to fish. I could disambiguate his gibberish, but why? His waking paranoid hallucinations
    are meant to distort politics for people who might otherwise read books of science and art and philosophy and reject his rightwingnut kookery.
    You can’t make this stuff up, but it is a spur to stop mourning and organize.