Talk about a White House as an ostrich sticking its head in the sand.
News that the Trump administration will remove the underpinnings of Science in forming its periodic long-term environmental reviews and eliminate any mention of serious climate disruption is breathtaking.
In a remarkably calm report, The New York Times let us know that after two years of unraveling environmental regulation and enforcement, the Trump administration now stands ready to remake science itself—at least in so far as official government recognition is concerned.
“Parts of the federal government will no longer fulfill what scientists say is one of the most urgent jobs of climate science studies: reporting on the future effects of a rapidly warming planet and presenting a picture of what the earth could look like by the end of the century if the global economy continues to emit heat-trapping carbon dioxide pollution from burning fossil fuels.”
To simply eliminate any scientific mention that there are problems ahead marks a new low for the leader of the most powerful economy in the world.
For example, the White House has insisted that scientific assessments produced use only computer-generated climate models that project the impact of climate change through 2040, rather than through the end of the century, as had been done previously, to lessen the worst predictions of worldwide hunger, migration and rising waters that scientists globally see ahead. “Scientists say that would give a misleading picture because the biggest effects of current emissions will be felt after 2040. Models show that the planet will most likely warm at about the same rate through about 2050. From that point until the end of the century, however, the rate of warming differs significantly with an increase or decrease in carbon emissions.”
Even a climate change denier like Trump, who has pulled the United States out of global agreements to commit to policies aimed at forestalling the worst effects of climate disruption, you’d think that the disagreement would be about what to do about all the environmental fuss. But to simply eliminate any scientific mention that there are problems ahead mark a new low for the leader of the most powerful economy in the world.
Trump Just Doesn’t Believe
From where I sit, you can’t solve a problem you don’t recognize exists. That’s what explains how Trump never sees poverty or income gaps or deteriorating international alliances or the rise of white nationalism. He just doesn’t believe the problems exist, so the government doesn’t acknowledge them.
Perhaps we should have more of this from Trump: He could simply wish a Wall on the southern border rather than having to obtain legislative approval or he could eliminate all taxes for the rest of us, as well as for himself and Jeff Bezos, by eliminating the need to finance a government. Or he could eliminate nuclear weapons in North Korea and Iran simply by imagining them gone. Why bother with any reality?
A particular target is the periodic National Climate Assessment, a report produced by several government agencies that every four years looks ahead to the most important climate changes we can expect. “Government scientists used computer-generated models in their most recent report to project that if fossil fuel emissions continue unchecked, the earth’s atmosphere could warm by as much as eight degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century. That would lead to drastically higher sea levels, more devastating storms and droughts, crop failures, food losses and severe health consequences,” The Times explained.
Reports Coming Out
Work on the next such report in 2021 or 2022 has already begun. But officials said those worst-case scenarios will not automatically be included.
That example will ripple through all of the government agencies, of course. So, just as pesticide-laced waters are seen in this administration as clean water, the changing patterns involving more serious hurricanes, flooding and tornadoes, the rising sea waters even in places like Miami, just aren’t happening.
To sift through all the misinformation, the president also wants a new environmental council of advisers who are led by William Happer, 79, a physicist who has been quoted as saying, “The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler.”
Uh, not helpful or appropriate or, say, true.
Happer is an associate of National Security Adviser John Bolton. Both are “beneficiaries of Robert and Rebekah Mercer, the far-right billionaire and his daughter who have funded efforts to debunk climate science. The Mercers gave money to a super PAC affiliated with Mr. Bolton before he entered government and to an advocacy group headed by Mr. Happer.”
I wonder if an ostrich image would fit on a campaign hat.
Nothing will ever be the same again. Donald Trump’s unwavering disregard for reality and his acts of violence against the truth are rapidly metastasizing into the marrow of the national debate. I'm not sure we have enough heroes in this country to successfully extricate Trumpism and toss it into the biohazard waste bin of history, along other embarrassments in America's mixed record.
The very fabric of right and wrong in America is disintegrating as one of our two major parties, with some crucial help from Russia, has convinced four out of every 10 voters that verifiable truth is nothing more than a fake news plot against them and their beloved Fifth Avenue Clampetts. As a result, half of the political debate, from the local level on up, is built exclusively on wrongness — on total nonsense, invented by Trump himself along with his propaganda cable network.
The knockout punch that the New York State Legislature just landed fighting landlords over spiraling rents ought to be attracting wider attention.
Just as with healthcare access or prescription drug prices, the cost of rent increases that mostly benefit big apartment owners is a challenge to the income-gap society that are at the heart of the national political debate. Every urban center in the country is having housing problems, and rents, like mortgages, are a subject at every kitchen table.
For once, the New York Legislature, whose Democrats overcame internecine divisions this session, has abolished rules that let building owners deregulate apartments, and closed loopholes that have permitted landlords to raise rents. And the changes for better tenant protection were made permanent, eliminating the recurring drama over these issues.
Jared Diamond is not afraid of big ideas. He has tackled such subjects as evolutionary psychology, the reasons why the West rose to global dominance, the lessons to be learned from "traditional societies" and the relationship between environmental change and the decline of ancient civilizations. and why ancient societies fell into decline.
Diamond has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the National Academy of Sciences. He has been awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship as well as the National Medal of Science. His bestselling book "Guns, Germs and Steel" won the Pulitzer Prize.