With great fanfare yesterday a beaming Donald Trump signed an executive order designed to quash President Barack Obama’s climate change efforts that were essential for U.S. compliance with the 2015Paris Climate Change Agreement.
Now that Trump has handed over the nation’s Environmental Protection Agency and the Departments of State and Interior to his donors and buddies from America’s version of Gazprom the Republican administration has turned climate change denial into national policy.
Now that Trump has handed over the nation’s Environmental Protection Agency and the Departments of State and Interior to his donors and buddies from America’s version of the Republican administration has turned climate change denial into national policy.
As I learned last winter, trying to have a meaningful “debate” with people who deny the existence of anthropogenic climate change is akin to arguing about how many angels can do the Macarena on the end of a pin. Climate denial to people safely ensconced inside the right-wing media bubble and blogosphere is faith-based and fact free.
But no amount of money flowing into Republican Party coffers from the Koch brothers or the Mercers; or the “policy papers” spewed forth from fossil fuel-backed front groups like the Heartland Institute; or the earsplitting volume and trolling on the part of rank-and-file climate change deniers have any effect on the CO2 count currently in our atmosphere (after 200 years of industrial society burning fossil fuels) or on the effects these additional greenhouse gases are having and will continue to have on our planet’s climate.
“Since the start of the industrial revolution, humans have burned through enough fossil fuels – coal, oil, natural gas – to add some 365 billion metric tons of carbon to the atmosphere. Deforestation has contributed another 180 billion tons. Each year, we throw up another nine billion tons or so, an amount that’s been increasing by as much as six percent annually. As a result of all this, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air today – a little over four hundred parts per million – is higher than at any other point in the last eight hundred thousand years. Quite probably it is higher than at any point in the last several million years. If current trends continue, CO2 concentrations will top five hundred parts per million, roughly double the levels they were in preindustrial days, by 2050. It is expected that such an increase will produce an eventual average global temperature rise of between three and a half and seven degrees Fahrenheit, and this will, in turn, trigger a variety of world-altering events, including the disappearance of most remaining glaciers, the inundation of low-lying islands and coastal cities, and the melting of the Arctic ice cap. But this is only half the story.
“Ocean covers seventy percent of the earth’s surface, and everywhere that water and air come together into contact there’s an exchange. Gases from the atmosphere get absorbed by the ocean and gases dissolved into the ocean are released into the atmosphere. When the two are in equilibrium, roughly the same quantities are being dissolved as are being released. Change the atmosphere’s composition, as we have done, and the exchange becomes lopsided: more carbon dioxide enters the water than comes back out. In this way, humans are constantly adding CO2 to the seas . . . on a global scale. . . .
“Thanks to all this extra CO2, the pH of the oceans’ surface waters has already dropped, from an average of around 8.2 to an average of around 8.1. Like a Richter scale, the pH scale is logarithmic, so even such a small numerical difference represents a very large real-world change. A decline of .1 means that the oceans are not thirty percent more acidic than they were in 1800. . . . Under what’s known as a ‘business as usual’ emissions scenario, surface ocean pH will fall to 8.0 by the middle of this century, and it will drop to 7.8 by the century’s end. At that point, the oceans will be 150 percent more acidic than they were at the start of the industrial revolution.” (Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, 2014, pp. 113-114)
As the world’s oceans continue to absorb the billions of metric tons of carbon that humans produce they will reach a point were they can no longer sustain aquatic life as we know it. We’re killing the oceans and Americans have chosen to put in power a bunch of people who are too dumb or greedy to notice or care.
I don’t expect EPA director Scott Pruitt or Interior Secretary Ryan Zinkeor Donald Trump to acknowledge the environmental, ecological, and biological costs of anthropogenic climate change – it’s not in their financial interests to do so. Their only focus is on the short-term project of making themselves and their golfing buddies even more fabulously rich than they already are.
Why would they care about the global die-off of amphibians, or the bleaching of coral at the Great Barrier Reef at levels never seen before, or the rapid destruction of vital parts of the ocean’s food chain? They don’t give a shit about the health of the world’s rain forests (the lungs of the planet) or the mass extinction of species of plants, insects, fish, and birds.
One thing the Trump Republicans have done is brought clarity: They are unified in their belief that our precious one-of-a-kind planet Earth is nothing more than a “green blob” to be mauled, exploited and pillaged with nary a thought given to the well being of future generations. Today the battle lines are drawn. We know what side the U.S. government is on.
If the old saying is true that “we don’t inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children,” then the Trump “administration” has chosen to put the country on a course careening toward the biggest theft from future generations the world has ever seen.