LA Progressive

“They Won’t Be Laughing Anymore:” Trump and the Paris Climate Accord

It was hardly a surprise, but it was disappointing to see Donald Trump announce that he would withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord. For all that it is an entirely voluntary commitment by almost all the states of the world, it does at least represent a global consensus that the climate is changing, that human activity is a major cause, and that emission of greenhouse gases must be cut back in order to avoid catastrophic consequences. Donald Trump is on record denying all of the above.

Trump’s climate denial is just the culmination of a generation of systematic efforts by the right wing and major elements of corporate America to cast doubt on the overwhelming consensus among climatologists.

Trump’s climate denial is just the culmination of a generation of systematic efforts by the right wing and major elements of corporate America (including the Koch Brothers and Rex Tillerson’s old company, Exxon, but NOT including Shell) to cast doubt on the overwhelming consensus among climatologists. This blatant refusal to accept scientific findings is something new in mainstream American politics. And it comes on the most consequential issue that Trump or any president will ever deal with: the future of human and other life on this planet. It is a colossal dereliction of duty for which Trump himself will pay little, but future generations will pay a horrific price.

Scientific research, including climatology, can never produce absolute certainty: every finding is subject to revision in light of new data. The climate changer deniers take advantage of this inherent uncertainty to question what almost every climatologist would conclude: that the climate is changing, that human activities are making it worse, that steps to reduce harmful emissions are imperative if disaster is to be avoided. Trump calls this scientific consensus a hoax, as if thousands of scientific professionals (many of them Americans) somehow got together and decided to propagate a great lie in order to bring down the United States. The sheer paranoia of climate change denial is stunning to behold. This collective insanity will eventually pass, but not before crucial damage is done.

If Trump is the culmination of a generation of right wing climate change denial, we could still see his uniquely bizarre personality in his announcement. Yes, he was bombastically fulfilling yet another off-the-wall campaign promise, appealing yet again exclusively to his base. But we could also see the insecure adolescent bully, muttering that the world had been laughing at the United States (where did he get that?) but they wouldn’t be laughing anymore.

The fate of the world is in the hands of a person who makes a crucial decision in order to stop people he thinks are laughing at him.

It would be laughable if it weren’t so terrifying.

John Peeler