Because the memory hole in these United States is wider and more voracious than a light-devouring quantum singularity, people tend to think the Donald Trump Being Awful On Twitter Phenomenon is a new thing visited upon us by a vengeful universe in 2016 as punishment for fouling the pristine ball of life we call home. This is not, in fact, the case.
“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive,” Trump infamously tweeted on Election Day in 2012, birthering (pun intended) the “Chinese Hoax” meme into existence. There is a surface strangeness to this, as Trump had been co-signing letters with other business leaders demanding “meaningful and effective measures to control climate change” only three years before.
Beginning in 2011 and up to the present, however, Trump has been a font of climate denialist nonsense. What changed that year? Oh, right, that was the year President Barack Obama made Trump look like a perfect dunce cap fool at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. It is widely believed this was the night Confirmed Racist Trump began to plan his run for the presidency.
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Trump’s main avenue for that run was on the far right. He had already prepared the ground with his brazenly racist “no birth certificate” campaign which so vividly exploded in his face at the dinner in 2011. What better way to augment his standing with those voters who think dinosaurs never existed because they aren’t mentioned in the Bible than to seize the flooded, polluted low country of climate denialism.
Flash forward to today, and Trump’s cynical climate scam has evolved (pun definitely intended) into actual policy. The New York Times reported on Monday that the Trump administration is not only stepping up its rollback of Obama-era climate policies, but is actively working to sabotage the science behind it.
“In the next few months, the White House will complete the rollback of the most significant federal effort to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, initiated during the Obama administration,” reports the Times. “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.”
This incredible stance flies in the face of even Trump’s own government, which released its terrifying National Climate Assessment last year. The report indicated that Earth’s atmospheric temperature could rise by as much as eight degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century unless fossil fuel emissions are curtailed.
Such a temperature rise “would lead to drastically higher sea levels, more devastating storms and droughts, crop failures, food losses and severe health consequences,” according to the Times report. Approximately 40 percent of the counties in the U.S. lie along the coasts, and many of the world’s major cities live well within the flood zone should such a temperature spike take place.
The relationship between Trump’s climate denial and his longstanding quest to erase Barack Obama from the history books is self-evident. The main impetus behind the frontal assault on science itself is coming from Trump’s absurd climate review panel, chaired by Princeton physicist William Happer. Happer’s denialism became the stuff of legend in 2009, when he claimed warnings on the dangers of carbon dioxide were “just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler.”
Trump is pushing for the obliteration of climate science because the next National Climate Assessment is due by 2022. Work on the report has already begun, but if no one within government is allowed to actually use science to reach scientific conclusions, that report will be entirely toothless. “What we have here is a pretty blatant attempt to politicize the science — to push the science in a direction that’s consistent with their politics,” Philip Duffy, president of the Woods Hole Research Center, told the Times.
There are many in the U.S. who correctly fear Donald Trump’s ever-growing autocracy and his desire to put the office of the president beyond the reach of law. Transforming climate denialism into active policy is but one side effect of this. It is, possibly, a side effect he and the Republican Party may come to regret soon.
“European Green parties on Monday were cheering E.U. elections that vaulted them into a kingmaking position of power,” reported The Washington Post on Monday, “as voters abandoned traditional political parties in favor of climate-focused activists in a green wave that swept several countries. The results propelled the Greens into second place in Germany and third place in France and elsewhere, amid a surge in excitement from young voters who faulted old-school parties for ignoring their concerns about the environment and offering few alternatives for a generation beset by economic pain following the global financial crisis.”
That is good news for Europe — and for the rest of the world. If U.S. voters follow suit and make climate disruption a first-tier priority, so much the better for us. In many sectors of the U.S. electorate, that awakening is already well underway.
None of this, however, can undo the damage already being wrought by a rogue president who seeks to undercut science itself in his insatiable quest for power.
The first definition of the word “science” in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary reads, “the state of knowing: knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding.”
A state of knowing is what Donald Trump fears most, because knowledge undercuts the delicate latticework of ignorance and image he has cultivated his entire life. He seeks to make himself and the office he offends so huge as to be untouchable, but history will remember him as a small man who thought he could ignore the ocean.