Welcome to our weekly Trump v. Earth column, in which onEarth reviews the environment-related shenanigans of President Trump and his allies.
Who Drew This Thing?
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released an alarming special report this week emphasizing the need to keep global average temperatures within 1.5 degrees Celsius of the preindustrial baseline—a need more urgent than most people previously thought. Going beyond that 1.5-degree threshold would lead to unprecedented food shortages and wildfires, as well as permanent damage to ecosystems around the world. Some of the changes would become dangerous and irreversible as early as the year 2040.
The thoroughly vetted scientific document is perhaps the most dire warning yet of the dangers of climate change. French President Emmanuel Macron called the report “scientific proof” of the need to act. United Nations Secretary General António Guterres described it as an “ear-splitting wake-up call.” The European Union called the IPCC report a “remarkable endeavour of scientists to inform policy-makers worldwide.”
President Trump’s response? “It was given to me. It was given to me. And I want to look at who drew it. You know, which group drew it. Because I can give you reports that are fabulous, and I can give you reports that aren’t so good.”
For starters, the report has no hand-drawn pictures. Sorry, President Trump. But if you want to know who drafted the report, it was the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—the world’s leading scientific body on the subject of global warming, established back in 1988. The current report was composed by 91 authors and editors from 40 countries and reviewed by literally thousands of government and technical experts. It draws on data from 6,000 scientific studies. In short, it checks out.
Trump’s response to the report is revealing of his worldview: The president doesn’t seem to want to engage with facts; he prefers to engage with personalities. When presented with a report that contradicts his opinions, Trump instinctively attacked the motives of the people behind it, rather than the underlying data.
If Trump-ism is a thing, it is defined by ad hominem attacks: the puerile nicknames he gives his political opponents, the ceaseless tweets intended to humiliate even his own staff, the insults he hurled at a victim of sexual assault who dared get in the way of the “good man” he nominated for the Supreme Court. Trump doesn’t grapple with facts; he only grapples with people.
Here’s hoping the impeccable scientific credentials of the IPCC immunizes it against Trump’s inevitable name-calling—for all our sakes.
MLK Had a Dream. Now Zinke Has His Bill.
Democrats on the House Natural Resources and Judiciary Committees would like a word with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. In August, Zinke floated a plan to charge protesters a fee for using the National Mall. This week, Democrats told Zinke, “We suspect that these proposed fees may be motivated less by the need to recover costs for [the National Park Service] and more by the intent to curb demonstrations on the National Mall.”
Gee, d’ya think?
The National Mall has hosted some of the most visible protests of the Trump era, including the 2017 Women’s March on Washington, when more than 500,000 people gathered to protest Trump’s election and his treatment of women. The march drew more people than the president’s inauguration the day before. We know how obsessed Trump was with the sparse attendance at his swearing-in—and he surely has not forgotten that humiliation. We also know that he demands loyalty, first and foremost, from his underlings, so Secretary Zinke would surely know the president expects him to deter anti-Trump gatherings in the president’s backyard.
Go back further and you can see why Republicans in general would like to prevent protesters from gathering in large numbers. The largest and most significant demonstrations on the Mall have always been progressive in nature. For the 1963 March on Washington, it was the site of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. In 1967 nearly 100,000 people gathered there to protest the Vietnam War, and 500,000 did the same in 1969. More than 250,000 Americans marched in support of organized labor in 1981 and 1991. The 1995 Million Man March was organized after the Republicans took control of Congress a year earlier.
Charging a fee to peaceably assemble at the symbolic center of American democracy contradicts our national values. James Madison advocated aggressively for the unconstrained right to assemble. During debate on the Bill of Rights in the first U.S. Congress, John Page of Virginia argued that the right to assemble undergirds every other right in the First Amendment. “[I]f the people could be deprived of the power of assembling under any pretext whatsoever,” he said, “they might be deprived of every other privilege contained in the clause.”
That the Trump administration would endorse such a plan makes you wonder if it cares at all about the country’s history and its core principles. Frankly, Mr. Zinke, the idea is un-American.
How Can I Angry-Face Andrew Wheeler?
After scrolling through Andrew Wheeler’s social media history, a Democratic political action committee has uncovered some bad personal decisions by the acting administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Perhaps most shameful, Wheeler “liked” an image of Barack and Michelle Obama that was clearly intended to liken them to nonhuman primates. He also joked that Hillary Clinton was a sign of the biblical apocalypse, among other troll-ish behavior.
“Over the years, I have been a prolific social media user and liked and inadvertently liked countless social media posts,” Wheeler said in response to the revelation, adding that he doesn’t specifically remember the Obama image.
It’s hard to believe that a self-described “prolific social media user” doesn’t know how to operate the “like” button, so one can safely assume he deliberately liked the image. That he (allegedly) can’t even remember doing so is also worrisome. A person should remember whether he enjoyed an undeniably racist post aimed at the sitting president of the United States, especially if that person has been intimately involved in Washington politics. Unfortunately, the scandalous behavior of Wheeler’s disgraced predecessor, Scott Pruitt, set the bar so low that racist social media behavior seems to no longer register as a firing offense, at least not in this administration.
onEarth provides reporting and analysis about environmental science, policy, and culture. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.