Analysis |

Eight Ways Trump Has Harmed the Most Important Struggle in Human History

In addition to withdrawing from the Paris climate accords, the President Trump has rolled back over 125 environmental safeguards and continually ignored the science.

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“In high school, if you didn’t believe in science it was just called failing” – Michelle Wolf

The science of climate change is not in doubt. Global average temperature is linked to the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, at a lag: The higher the CO2 level in the air, the hotter the average temperature will climb.

Temperatures have yet to react to the present level of carbon dioxide, which is the highest in 23 million years. The global warming we’re already experiencing – the extreme weather, the bouts of unsurvivable heat, the droughts and floods and famines and ocean acidification – ain’t nothing yet.

Following are key ways in which Donald Trump has set back the most important struggle in human history: to save the planet from what we have already done to it.

How important is this? The accompanying graph, shared with Haaretz by sea-level rise guru John Englander, the founder of the Rising Seas Institute, shows the correlation of CO2 to temperature to sea level over more than 400,000 years. The red circle marks the existing CO2 level to which the temperature hasn’t even reacted yet.

A graph showing sea level rise in relation to carbon dioxide and global temperatures.Credit: John Englander

1. Deregulation

Trump rolled back more than 125 environmental safeguards, counts the Washington Post, loosening regulatory oversight over polluting industries, including leaking nuclear plants; abolishing protection for animals; encouraging fracking – an industry that encourages fossil fuel use and is known to cause environmental destruction, even earthquakes; enabling more logging and oil exploration in Alaska; and rolling back rules requiring fossil fuel companies to monitor methane emissions, to name but a few issues. He took the United States out of the crucial Paris climate accords (on the grounds that they were “unfair” to Americans) without offering an alternative. Trump’s policy even weakened efficiency standards for dishwashers, the Washington Post points out.

2. Science denial

Trump has consistently derided the science behind global warming and the pandemic, even suppressing inconvenient evidence. Nature itself explained the environmental havoc Trump is wreaking. Most recently, debating Joe Biden, Trump – who has repeatedly called climate change a “hoax” – said he plans to plant a “trillion trees” and said that wind turbines are expensive, “kill all the birds” and warned about their emission of fumes, implying that natural gas is cleaner, augmenting his statement in 2019 that “they say the noise [from wind turbines] causes cancer.” 

During a briefing on the wildfires in California, the president argued that the climate “will start getting cooler, you just watch”. Told that science doesn’t think so, Trump answered: “I don’t think science knows, actually.” It does, said the LA Times.

3. Lying

“Dishonesty Has Defined the Trump Presidency,” Peter Baker wrote in The New York Times, elaborating: “The Trump presidency has been a factory of falsehood from the start, churning out distortions, conspiracy theories and brazen lies at an assembly-line pace that has challenged fact-checkers and defied historical analogy.”

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump wearing protective glasses as they view the solar eclipse at the White House, Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. Trump later stared directly at the sun. Credit: Andrew Harnik/AP

And Greg Sargent wrote in the Washington Post: “Trump is drowning in his own lies.” Maybe he’s truly ignorant of the science and that’s why he tweets such nonsense such as yearning for global warming because of a cold snap.

Apropos lying, Trump told a rally in Ohio on September 21: "Now we know it [COVID-19]. It affects elderly people. Elderly people with heart problems and other problems. But they have other problems, that’s what it really affects, that’s it... But it affects virtually nobody. It’s an amazing thing." He has also repeatedly claimed that the U.S. is "rounding the turn" as case numbers climb, and that Americans shouldn't fear the disease, saying in early October: "Don't be afraid of it. You're going to beat it." But Trump should know what COVID-19 is, having caught it. Any subsequent dismissal is a lie

4. Cronyism

Climate change denier Scott Pruitt was named head of the Environmental Protection Agency with the mission of taming the watchdog and making it an industry pet. Pruitt held 25 times more meetings with industry representatives than environmental advocates during his first seven months in office, Reuters reported.  After spending scandals, he was succeeded by his deputy, Andrew Wheeler, who was “every bit as committed to environmental deregulation,” Yale Environment 360 reported. No stranger to spin, Wheeler noted that the Trump administration enacted the SAFE vehicles rule, but actually it gave carmakers more leeway than the Obama-regime rule it replaced. This will add 867 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to our air. The Hill reported in September that Trump rollbacks could add 1.8 billion tons of CO2 over 15 years. Look hard at that graph above.

5. Bad influence

Speaking of CO2, the devastating wildfires in the Amazon are due partly to climate change and partly to deforestation and other damaging policies pursued by Brazil’s president and Trump buddy, Jair Bolsonaro. He claims the rainforest – a crucial component of the global environment and CO2 regime – “remains pristine and virtually untouched,” and thanked the U.S. president for his support.

Smoke rising into the air as trees burn among vegetation in the Pantanal, the world's largest wetland, in Pocone, Mato Grosso state, Brazil, September 3, 2020. Credit: AMANDA PEROBELLI/REUTERS

CNBC points out that Brazil’s space agency showed that the number of forest fires in the Brazilian Amazon rose 84 percent between January and August 2019, compared with the same period in 2018, and they’re even fiercer this year. Bolsonaro still says the reports of Amazon fires are lies

6. Immorality

Prioritizing not looking stupid over saving the planet is arguably depraved: Last week, the chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Craig McLean, was fired ahead of a climate assessment report because of an NOAA policy prohibiting manipulating research or presenting ideologically driven findings, says CleanTechnica. The Trump administration pulled NOAA’s chief scientist and installed new political staff who question accepted facts about climate change, CleanTechnica charges. The previous report in 2018 stated that the climate crisis poses an imminent and dire threat – and at the time, Trump admitted that he’d only read part of it and didn’t believe it.

7. Scrapping rules

Removing seemingly piddling anti-environmental rules adds up. For instance, Trump blocked a policy – established by his GOP predecessor President George W. Bush – requiring new lightbulbs to meet stringent energy-efficiency standards; he rejected bipartisan legislation to curb use of mega-heat-trapping super-pollutants in fridges and air conditioners; and weakened the Endangered Species Act, which could open up whole vistas formerly reserved for protected species to oil and gas drilling, and developers.

8. Greed

It barely counts in this greater scheme of things, but Trump did not cavil at damaging Scotland’s fragile environment of sand dunes for his golf resort in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. But apropos, in 2016 Trump applied for permission to build a seawall to protect another of his golf courses, in Ireland – from climate change. Irish eyes were not smiling.

In October, Scientific American published its first-ever endorsement of a presidential candidate in its 175-year existence, chiefly noting that Trump’s rejection of evidence and science are killing people. MediaPost wrote at the end of last week that Biden had collected 119 media endorsements and Trump six.

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