TRUMP V PLANET EARTHPlaying with fire and ice over climate change – the Trump Administration’s own goal <www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2018-11-26-playing-with-fire-and-ice-over-climate-change-the-trump-administrations-own-goal/?tl_inbound=1&tl_groups=80895&tl_period_type=3&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=First%20Thing%20Monday%2026%20November%202018%20Exclusive%20Books%2055&utm_content=First%20Thing%20Monday%2026%20November%202018%20Exclusive%20Books%2055+CID_515ae92441818855d5699739f45e068e&utm_source=TouchBasePro&utm_term=Playing%20with%20fire%20and%20ice%20over%20climate%20change%20%20the%20Trump%20Administrations%20own%20goal>
By J Brooks Spector• 26 November 2018
Protesters march from the US Capitol to the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 29 April 2017. Thousands of demonstrators turned out for the ‘Peoples Climate March’ which also marks the 100th day in office for US President Donald J. Trump. EPA/TASOS KATOPODIS Less 4 Reactions
The release of the newest US government climate change report, with its dire warnings about the human, financial and environmental costs of continuing climate change, has put the Trump administration in a bind. They tried to bury its release during the Thanksgiving holiday, but that only focused more attention on it.
*The poles of fear, the extremes of how the Earth might conceivably be doomed. Minor exercise in the care and feeding of a nightmare, respectfully submitted by all the thermometer-watchers in the Twilight Zone.*
– Rod Serling’s closing words for *The Midnight Sun*, an episode of *The Twilight Zone.*
*Some say the world will end in fire,Some say in ice.From what I’ve tasted of desire.I hold with those who favour fire.*
*But if it had to perish twice,I think I know enough of hateTo say that for destruction iceIs also greatAnd would suffice.*
– Robert Frost, *Fire and Ice*
You have to hand it to Donald Trump’s world-class team of spin doctors and spielmeisters in the White House. They managed to bury a story by getting it smack on to the front pages of newspapers around the world as the big story, as the repeated lead story on international TV news channels, and as a trending story on social media for the whole, entire weekend. Great job, folks.
And to top it all off, this story was paired with some increasingly bizarre tweets from their fearless leader that yet again became objects of snarky derision by sentient beings everywhere. This just reinforced a belief by many that Donald Trump has little or no capability to process actual information from anywhere besides *Fox News TV*.
What are we speaking of? Why, it was the American Thanksgiving weekend release of the Fourth National Climate Assessment <nca2018.globalchange.gov/> authored by hundreds of scientist-civil servants from a whole gaggle of science-focused US government agencies, as well as yet more scientists from outside the government. The Trump administration had apparently thought, after giving it careful hours of contemplation, cogitation, and professional rock-scissors-paper exercises, that advancing the release date of the exhaustive — and very alarming, even horrifying — report to the Thanksgiving weekend, rather than at the originally planned, early December date, would somehow help bury it.
Their thinking seemed to be that absolutely nobody would be paying the slightest bit of attention to boring old science-style news like this, what with Thanksgiving’s groaning board meals to wolf down; a slew of professional and university football games to be watched live or on television (or even that now-popular, televised national dog championship); the usual orgy of bargain shopping on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the weekend in between to be accomplished; then, finally, the millions coping with all those hordes during the week’s peak travel days via planes, trains, and automobiles all across the nation. Ha! Great work, that. Nicely played, Trumpians. Except that it became a front page, top-of-the-news-hour story. Everywhere.
The report, at its core, is a frontal attack on the positions of an anti-science, pro-superstition and obscurantist president and his band of acolytes. The report delivers stark warnings about the inevitability of climate change with current policies and its devastating costs and impacts (unless some really serious measures come on board really soon), saying the economy could lose hundreds of billions of dollars — or, in the worst-case scenario, more than 10% of its GDP — by the end of this century.
The National Climate Assessment’s publication marks the government’s fourth comprehensive look at climate-change impacts on the United States since 2000. The most recent previous report came out in 2014. This newest one, produced by 13 federal departments and agencies and overseen by the US Global Change Research Program, stretches to over 1,600 pages and draws more definitive, and, in some cases even more startling conclusions than those earlier versions.
The authors argue that global warming “is transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us”. And they conclude that humans must act aggressively to adapt to current impacts and mitigate future catastrophes “to avoid substantial damages to the US economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades”.
The new publication is the second of two related volumes. The first, released in November 2017, concluded that there is “no convincing alternative explanation” for the changing climate other than “human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases”.
At the report’s release, David Easterling, director of the Technical Support Unit at the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, and a participant in the report’s writing, said the climate change the Earth is experiencing is unlike any other and that “the global average temperature is much higher and is rising more rapidly than anything modern civilisation has experienced, and this warming trend can only be explained by human activities”. He insisted there had been no interference with the contents or conclusions of the report by President Trump — or by Lord Voldemort or that evil criminal genius, Moriarty (Okay, not the latter two).
*The Washington Post* <www.washingtonpost.com/energy-environment/2018/11/23/major-trump-administration-climate-report-says-damages-are-intensifying-across-country/>, reporting on the new document, noted:
“The report’s authors, who represent numerous federal agencies, say they are more certain than ever that climate change poses a severe threat to Americans’ health and pocketbooks, as well as to the country’s infrastructure and natural resources. And while it avoids policy recommendations, the report’s sense of urgency and alarm stands in stark contrast to the lack of any apparent plan from President Trump to tackle the problems, which, according to the government he runs, are increasingly dire.
“The congressionally mandated document — the first of its kind issued during the Trump administration — details how climate-fuelled disasters and other types of worrisome changes are becoming more commonplace throughout the country and how much worse they could become in the absence of efforts to combat global warming.
“Already, western mountain ranges are retaining much less snow throughout the year, threatening water supplies below them. Coral reefs in the Caribbean, Hawaii, Florida and the United States’ Pacific territories are experiencing severe bleaching events. Wildfires are devouring ever-larger areas during longer fire seasons. And the country’s sole Arctic state, Alaska, is seeing a staggering rate of warming that has upended its ecosystems, from once ice-clogged coastlines to increasingly thawing permafrost tundras.”
A Trumpian tweet, effectively in response to this report’s release by his own administration, was to offer a kind of tongue-stuck-out “bah, humbug”, smirked that the cold wave during the Thanksgiving weekend and some early snow in the greater Northeast had put paid to that foolish notion by a bunch of politically motivated scientists. In previous years, Trump had insisted climate change was a hoax, or something cooked up by the Chinese for trade advantage, as his explanation for removing the US from the Paris climate accord.
Meanwhile, however, the nation had also been transfixed by scenes of those extraordinary wildfires consuming vast expanses of California’s forests, despite the president’s admonition that more raking of leaves would have made things so much better, *a la* an imaginary forest service in Finland with their millions of rakes and leaf bags. And, of course, in the earlier months of 2018, there had been media coverage of some truly bodacious hurricanes hitting the US East Coast and Gulf Coast, and the nations of the Western Pacific — and the extraordinary costs associated with subsequent rescue, recovery, and rebuilding.
Despite the denialists, the science, as explained in these most recent reports — and a whole shelf of other federal government reports over the years, is increasingly compelling. The reality of climate change does not become negated by the extreme weather over one day or a single week. Instead, per these studies, this reality leaps out from the graphs and mountains of data describing long-term trends.
As this report notes, humans are now living with the warmest temperatures in modern history and even if — unlikely as it sounds — greenhouse gas emissions dropped to absolutely zero, the world would still warm by 0.6°C. Moreover, as of now, not a single G20 country is actually meeting climate targets, research shows. The challenge is that without significant reductions in greenhouse emissions, the annual average global temperature could increase 5°C or more by the end of this century, in comparison with preindustrial temperatures.