Climate Science Is Not Mythology

Trump and the GOP Congress are obsessed with undermining the climate crisis and the science behind it. This will cost us our future.
The Mississippi River rising around a home in West Alton, Missouri, June 2019. Towns along the river have been experiencing the longest stretch of major flooding in nearly a century.
Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Trump and the GOP Congress are obsessed with undermining the climate crisis and the science behind it. This will cost us our future.

Two recent news stories show how far President Trump and his backers in Congress will go to surrender our future to the ravages of climate change.

First, reports the New York Times, the White House wants to use our own government to sow doubt about climate science and stop telling the public how bad things could get. What we don’t know will still hurt us. By the time it does, though, Trump and his gang will have long since left town.

Second, Climatewire reports, a right-leaning climate-denial outfit has summed up what Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are bringing to the climate fight: “The Plan is . . . No Plan!” That’s the title of a memo sent to members of Congress by the aptly named climate-denial website JunkScience and a nonprofit affiliate called the Energy and Environment Action Team. “There is absolutely no reason,” they counsel, “for any Republican to offer a plan to ‘combat climate change.”

Trump, McConnell, and their fellow climate laggards on Capitol Hill have followed the JunkScience script to the letter, refusing to lift a finger to protect our families and communities from the central environmental challenge of our time. Instead, Trump is working to withdraw U.S. participation from the landmark Paris climate agreement; roll back the progress we’re making in cleaning up our cars, trucks, and dirty power plants; and expose public lands, coasts, and ocean waters to ever more damage and danger from producing coal, oil, and gas.

The GOP playbook, though, is out of step with what more and more people of all ages and backgrounds say is best for the country.

Nearly 7 in 10 Americans want the government to take action to fight climate change, and there’s little wonder why. We’ve just been through the five hottest years since global recordkeeping began in 1880. We’re seeing the results all around us. Croplands are turning to desert, at home and abroad. We’re losing entire species of wildlife faster than at any other time since the dinosaurs vanished some 60 million years ago.

And Americans are connecting the dots between a warmer climate and more devastating disasters across the heartland, as record flooding and storms have washed away billions of dollars’ worth of livestock, crops, and property.

Trump’s response is to try to hide the truth about the growing threats and rising costs of the climate crisis.

At the U.S. Geological Survey, long the source of authoritative information on rising sea level and other climate impacts, scientists are under orders to stop projecting such effects after 2040. That’s about the time a child born today will become a young adult. It’s 10 years before someone who signs a 30-year mortgage would pay off the debt on their home.

It’s also when sea level rise will start to accelerate at an alarming pace, unless we cut the carbon pollution from burning coal, oil, and gas. If we don’t, seas could rise as much as 6.5 feet by 2100, scientists reported last week, with most of the increase coming in the second half of the century.

We fix that by shifting to cleaner, smarter ways to power our future, not by pretending what happens to our children doesn’t matter.

Trump is also considering setting up a dark-ops shop to undermine science inside the agency we look to as our last line of defense against toxic pollution and industrial ruin, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The so-called “climate review panel” is being pushed by William Happer, the president’s deputy assistant for emergency technologies on the National Security Council.

Happer, a physicist known for extolling the benefits of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, has said that “the demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler.”

Treating science like mythology, history like nonsense, and respected agencies like propaganda factories is no way to run this country. And yet, just a week ago, the New York Times reported that the Trump administration plans to abandon the way EPA calculates the health risks of air pollution and find a way to make those dangers appear less deadly. The shift would affect the 2015 Clean Power Plan, which calls for cutting the carbon pollution from the dirty power plants that account for nearly 40 percent of the nation’s carbon footprint.

The changes Trump has proposed to the plan would result in up to 1,400 additional premature deaths per year by 2030, the EPA has estimated. That’s because Trump’s changes would allow smokestacks to pollute the air we breathe with more of the very fine particles linked to heart and lung disease, asthma, cancer, and stroke.

Under Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist, the EPA is reportedly cooking the books to try to melt those dangers away. But smoke and mirrors won’t mean fewer premature deaths; just that our government won’t tell us the truth about them.

Trump wants to keep the country in the dark to justify policies that put fossil fuel profits first and put the rest of us at risk. That’s an unconscionable betrayal of the public trust. It’s time for responsible climate action with sound science, the national interest and our children’s future at its core.

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