Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Implications of Trump's Reprehensible Rejection of Climate Science

Like the Republican party he now owns, Donald Trump derides science because it exposes his ignorance. The enormous body of scientific evidence makes it impossible for thinking people to deny the veracity of anthropogenic climate change. Those who seek to malign climate science are guilty of an egregious lie that jeopardizes national security and compromises people's health and well being. It also exacerbates divisions by fraying the unifying fabric rational thought.

Trump rejects science for the same reasons he maligns the press. Eradicating fact based narratives give him license to enact an agenda that is at odds with the national interest. His obfuscation serves corporate interests, especially that of the fossil fuel industry which is the single largest industrial contributor to the climate crisis.

Republicans are complicit in the fossil fuel industry's climate denial because they are handsomely rewarded for their rejection of science. Aided by the Citizens United ruling the fossil fuel industry gives Republicans vast sums of money to propagate lies that protect their interests. The facts are a threat to their multi-trillion dollar business.  Embracing science means rejecting this form of dirty energy.

The goal of their disinformation is to muddy the waters of scientific research and ultimately undermine the perceived veracity of scientific findings. 

Trump recently made a series of clearly inaccurate comments about climate change. When asked about whether he still thinks climate change  is a hoax Trump appeared to modify his position bringing him in line with many other Republicans who question its anthropogenic origins. "I think something's happening. Something's changing and it'll change back again," Trump said. "I don't think it's a hoax. I think there's probably a difference. But I don't know that it's man-made." He completely ignores the vast body of research that demonstrates the anthropogenic origins of climate change.

Trump also said, “I want to look at who drew it—you know, which group drew it."  The answer seemed to indicate that the President had never heard of the IPCC, the world's leading climate science organization. This represents a level of ignorance that is more concerning than surprising.

When the Associated Press asked Trump about the report he gave an even crazier response.
"And you have scientists on both sides of the issue. And I agree the climate changes, but it goes back and forth, back and forth." When the interviewer pointed out that this is not in fact true Trump said:
"My uncle was a great professor at MIT for many years. Dr. John Trump," he said. "And I didn’t talk to him about this particular subject, but I have a natural instinct for science, and I will say that you have scientists on both sides of the picture." He even had the audacity to call himself an "environmentalist".  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Trump's lies with predictable regularity and he is infamous for his doublespeak but to say that he is an environmentalist or that there are scientists on both sides of the climate issue is patently false. His suggestion that he has an instinct for science is a bizarre oxymoron even for the liar-and-chief.  Science is a meticulous methodology, it is premised on procedures not instinct.

The few scientific findings that purportedly question the veracity of climate science have been all proven to be incorrect. There are only three papers that deny climate change and they have all been found to be flawed. Replication is a corner stone of the scientific method and the findings of these three papers cannot be replicated.

Other pseudo-scientific right-wing front groups have developed elaborate disinformation campaigns. Some have been exposed for falsifying data.  Groups like the fossil fuel funded Heartland Institute are going into schools and depriving children of a fact-based education by handing out fake science textbooks that downplay the importance of anthropogenic climate change.

Trump may be the laughing stock of the world but his actions still bite. His withdrawal from the Paris Climate agreement makes it that much more difficult to achieve emissions reduction targets that will keep the earth from warming beyond the upper prescribed limit. His actions have global significance. According to the most recent IPCC report we are quickly approaching the point of no return. We are on the cusp of climate tipping points from which we will not be able to recover.

Trump is making an already perilous situation even worse. Even if all nations on earth honored the emissions reduction pledges they made as part of the Paris Climate Agreement we will not be able to keep the planet from dangerous levels of warming. Improving on these commitments is a daunting task in the light of Republican climate denial and Trump's decision to withdraw the US from the agreement.  To make matters worse Trump has adopted an insane energy policy and embraced what can only be described as a national policy of energy inefficiency.

"Unfortunately, the Trump administration has become a rogue outlier in its shortsighted attempt to prop up the dirty fossil fuel industries of the past. The administration is in direct conflict with American businesses, states, cities and citizens leading the transformation." Climate guru and former Vice President Al Gore said.

Trump's resistance to crafting policy based on science allows him to execute an insane energy agenda. It also facilitated the deregulatory orgy of the former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt who waged war against science during his stint at the EPA.

Pruitt not only purged scientists, according to the Washington Post he excluded them from participating in the rule-making on the use of scientific studies. The goal of the rewrite was to find a pretext to reject valid data that contradicts his agenda of radical deregulation. The Post reports that almost 70 prominent scientific, medical and academic organizations challenged Pruitt's proposal. Pruitt ignored his mandate while at the helm of the EPA and in so doing he compromised the health of Americans.  He turned a blind eye to things like fine particulate pollution which is know to put people at risk for coronary heart disease and respiratory illnesses. The EPA panel that was working on airborne particulate matter has been disbanded.

The acting EPA director Andrew Wheeler has already replaced five of seven members on the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee with industry supporters. Now he is setting his sights on stacking important agency science advisory bodies with insiders who will support radical deregulation. 

As reported by Climatewire, some of the finalists for the EPA's Science Advisory Board include people from the fossil fuel industry and leading climate denial advocacy groups. This includes an economist from the Heritage foundation and scientists who work at Exxon Mobil and Chevron. These people all have a track record of opposing mainstream science and environmental regulations. These people make wildly inaccurate statements including one who downplays the impact of air pollution on human health and another who argues that carbon is good for the planet. More than one finalist hails from the Heartland Institute.

Anthony Lupo, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Missouri, Columbia is one of the contenders who subscribe to the factually inaccurate view that while the earth may be warming humans are not to blame. He takes it one step further when he makes the wildly erroneous claim that increased levels of carbon are actually good for the planet.

To make matters worse the international cooperation that is required to combat climate change is being undermined by Trump's assaults on international institutions like the United Nations. The departure of Nikki Haley as US ambassador to the UN may signal an even harder line.

The Trump administration and his Republican minions use science as a political football to further their destructive agenda. Both Republican legislators and the Trump administration are virulently opposed to science. They have made an already daunting situation far more difficult. Their mendacity in the face of this civilization altering crisis is unconscionable. History will not be kind to this generation of Republicans, nor will it be kind to this president.

* Updated on October, 21, 2018 at 9:25 am

Related
Scientists Take on Trump and GOP Climate Denial
The Fossil Fuel Industry and Republican Climate Deception
Scientists Tell Trump to Act on Climate Change
The Implications of the Trump Administration's Disdain for Science
Pruitt's War Against Science
Science and Pernicious Ignorance of Climate Change Denial
Trump's Climate Denial the GOP and Fossil Fuels
Why Trump Does Not Want a Science Advisor
Trump's Budget is a Declaration of War Against Climate Research
Sham Hearings Make a Mockery out of Climate Science
GOP Denial and President Obama's Climate Legacy
Republican Reaction to the 2014 IPCC Report

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