President Trump wants us to ignore the scientists and believe him.
We do so at our peril.
While the nation was taking some time off for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, scientists within the United States government released a Congressionally-mandated report on climate change.
Their conclusions — backed by decades of research — were stark: global warming is already happening and if nothing is done the nation (and the world) will pay a heavy price.
Just read the opening sentences: “Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities. The assumption that current and future climate conditions will resemble the past is no longer valid.”
This is big. The Department of Defense along with a dozen other federal agencies backed the report. Its 1,656 pages are full of details and dire predictions, laying out a scenario that should send chills up the spine of every American.
It says unless a massive commitment to fight climate change is made — and made soon — our entire way of life could be at risk. That means both our physical health as individuals and our economic health as a nation are threatened.
This is not a mass of hypotheticals. The authors point to concrete examples of the way a warming climate is already affecting us — from the devastating wildfires in California, to crop failures in the American midwest, to a shrinking snowpack in the Rocky Mountains.
All told, 300 of the nation’s top scientific minds in government and the private sector contributed to the report. Their findings should carry great weight and their conclusions should be seen as an urgent call to action.
But the president isn’t buying it.
That is because the report is directly at odds with Donald Trump’s environmental agenda. Not only does he believe that all these fears of global warming are hyped, he has made the problem worse by loosening environmental regulations, taking steps to allow more warming emissions from automobiles and factories.
President Trump is such a skeptic that when a cold snap engulfed part of the nation on Thanksgiving Day, he tweeted: “Brutal and Extended Cold Blast could shatter ALL RECORDS – Whatever happened to Global Warming?”
That tweet was posted one day before the report was released. He had to know it was coming and likely wanted to sow the seeds of doubt.
This, after all, is the president who campaigned for office — and quickly delivered — on a promise to withdraw from the Paris deal on climate change, which requires countries to set limits on the greenhouse gases that cause global warming.
In an interview last month with CBS, Donald Trump said he thought things would “change back again” on their own without government action. And then he added:
“I will say this: I don’t want to give (up) trillions and trillions of dollars. I don’t want to lose millions and millions of jobs.”
But according to the authors of the National Climate Assessment, that is exactly what will happen if we do nothing.
They write about potential impacts on trade and national security and spell out the economic costs in much starker terms than the last NCA, which was issued in May of 2014.
The 2014 assessment addressed the future… the 2018 report says the future is here.
And it should come as no surprise that this is one document the Trump administration wanted to hide.
In the news business, we talk about the “Friday news dump” — when certain damaging information is released late on a Friday afternoon as the work week comes to an end and most Americans are starting their weekend. Those doing the “dumping” believe, rightly or wrongly, that people will be paying less attention to the news on their days off.
Well, it may be said that the White House release of this climate report on the Friday after Thanksgiving — which is also the biggest shopping day of the year — may be the most outrageous news dump of all time.
The authors aren’t talking, although they have acknowledged they did not expect their work to be made public quite this soon. The White House won’t comment either on the timing of the release, although it did put out a statement in which it claimed the assessment was based on “the most extreme scenario.”
As for the president himself, well, he just brushed the whole thing off. When asked if he had read the lengthy document, he said only that he saw part of it and he didn’t believe it.
Clearly, his goal was to mute the public response to the report and to an extent he has succeeded. But not totally. Holiday shoppers may have been oblivious to the NCA, but not the nation’s top environmental activists.
Former Vice-President Al Gore — the Nobel prize winning climate change crusader— was quick to speak out about the timing and content of the report:
“Unbelievably deadly and tragic wildfires rage in the west, hurricanes batter our coasts — and the Trump administration chooses the Friday after Thanksgiving to try and bury this critical U.S. assessment of the climate crisis,” Gore said in a written statement. “The President may try to hide the truth, but his own scientists and experts have made it as stark and clear as possible.”
Colin O’Mara, head of the National Wildlife Federation, picked up on the theme. “It is beyond disgraceful to bury the truth about climate impacts in a year that saw hundreds of Americans die during devastating climate-fueled megafires, hurricanes, floods, and algal blooms,” O’Mara said in a tweet.
The release of the report is also creating a sense of urgency among congressional Democrats, who will assume control of the House of Representatives in January. Already, the stage is being set for hearings on the administration’s climate policies and its easing of environmental regulations.
But will these hearings have any impact on the man at the top — a man who has claimed that because his uncle was a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he has “a natural instinct for science”?
Our future depends on it… and if the National Climate Assessment is to be believed, the future is now.