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It's not okay how clueless Donald Trump is about climate change

Posted on 1 February 2018 by dana1981

Donald Trump has decimated all presidential norms to such a degree that it’s now difficult to feel alarmed or outraged when he inevitably breaks another. It was difficult to raise an eyebrow when the story broke that Trump paid off a porn star to remain silent about their affair, which happened just after his third wife had given birth to his fifth child, because it’s Donald Trump – of course he did.

Likewise, when Trump made a number of grossly ignorant and wrong commentsabout climate change in an interview with Piers Morgan last week, my first reaction was ‘it’s Donald Trump – of course he did.’

But that’s not okay. Donald Trump is the leader of the country most culpable for the existential threat that we’ve created by rapidly changing Earth’s climate. His administration is alone in the world in declaring that we need not worry about that existential threat. We need to hold him to account for his ignorance on this critically important issue and demand better.

Trump’s ignorant climate comments

Trump’s climate comments in the interview were so ridiculously misinformed that even late night comedians were able to debunk them:

They’re claims you might expect from a YouTube troll, not the leader of the country that produces some of the best climate science research and data in the world. It would be easy to laugh them off as Trump’s usual buffoonery, but he should be held to a presidential standard. So, to briefly debunk each of these myths:

  • Trump is correct on one point: the polar ice caps are at a record level. Of course, he probably didn’t mean that global sea ice is at record low extent. In fact, Arctic sea ice is in such a rapid long-term decline that climate scientists have described it as a “death spiral.” As climate scientist Michael Mann noted, ice sheets are likewise melting faster than predicted.
global sea ice extent

Annual average global sea ice extent data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Illustration: Dana Nuccitelli

In his State of the Union speech this week, Trump didn’t even mention climate change. His only related comment was that “we have ended the war on beautiful clean coal.” It’s another completely nonsensical statement. There was arguably a ‘war on coal’ (which coal lost), but there’s near-universal support for ‘clean coal’ technologies (those which reduce and capture coal’s various pollutants, most notably carbon dioxide). Does Trump understand the difference? It’s Donald Trump – of course he doesn’t.

Trump’s art of withdrawing from great deals

Trump’s misinformed comments in the Morgan interview extended beyond climate science into the realm of climate policy:

I believe in clean air. I believe in crystal-clear, beautiful … I believe in just having good cleanliness in all. Now, with that being said, if somebody said go back into the Paris accord, it would have to be a completely different deal because we had a horrible deal.

Trump may “believe in” clean air and water, but his EPA has taken countless steps to weaken regulations of air and water pollutants. Regardless of what he believes, his administration’s actions are creating dirtier air and water.

As for the Paris accord, it could not have been a better deal for America. In the agreement, the US committed to reduce its carbon pollution at approximately the same rate it was already declining. To meet that pledge would simply have required following through with existing American climate policies. Instead, Trump and his EPA administrator Scott Pruitt decided to take every possible step to undo those climate policies. Not only did they repeal the Clean Power Plan – America’s most robust effort to tackle climate change – but they even went so far as to erect posters at EPA buildings gloating about it:

View image on Twitter

However, even if Trump and Pruitt succeed in increasing American carbon pollution, there would have been no penalties for missing the Paris targets. The agreement was non-binding. In short, America could easily have met its pledges had the Trump administration so desired, but failing to do so carried no concrete consequences. How can a deal get any better than that?

The answer is that Paris was a great deal, but Trump campaigned on bluster that every deal entered by the Obama administration was the worst in world history (also see the Iran deal), and thus essentially forced himself to withdraw from those deals. Trump’s claims that he may re-enter the Paris agreement if America gets ‘a better deal’ are nonsensical.

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Comments 1 to 8:

  1. Well said. Trump is just clearly totally scientifically ignorant, and you can probably add in some deliberate stupidity. He doesnt like carbon taxes, and renewable energy etc so he attacks the science.

    He is excessively prioritising corporate values above the environment and public good. This is clear in everything he has done since being in office legislatively, so his words claiming otherwise are fake words.

    Clearly Trump doesn't like multi party agreements. He is used to negotiating two party property deals, and multi party agreements are foreign to him. It's not so easy for him to dominate and manipulate people in multi party agreements.

    Trump has pulled out of the TPPA, which is a multi party trade agreement. America was dominating this agreement and getting the best deal, so his move makes little sense. However Trump has opposed free trade for a long time, despite the fact nearly all economists promote free trade.

    Trump also obviously hates and resents Obama. This appears almost pathological.

    America is lost, and it's people mostly don't seem to care anymore what made up nonsense their politicians talk.

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  2. Nigel@1,

    T-man resents Obama because t-man is a racist. Proof: he instructed his hotel staff to tag black people on their job applications and was telling black customers "no vacancies" while admitting whites at the same time.

    The article describes well the t-man's ignorance but IMO it does not go far enough. E.g., t-man's talk about "beautiful clean coal" is no more than a moronic, childish, deceptive quirk to gather behind him the voters who lost their jobs due to coal mining collapse. No one listens to it, and those unemployed miners should stop listening ASA they realize other, cleaner jobs do exist.

    Perhaps Dana restrains himself, because the office of POTUS is very honorable (sic, I live in OZ) and requires respect. But it's hard to have any respect to the childish soap opera show that t-man turned this office into.

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  3. Chriskoz @2

    Trump certainly has a history regarding racial issues. For example from the NY Times we have some detailed evidence: "Donald Trump’s Racism: The Definitive List"

    Yes clean coal is just deceptive nonsense that will never happen. He could start implementing this today if he really wanted, but has done nothing. Not that I'm advocating clean coal, because renewable energy now makes more sense. 

    I feel just as strongly as you about Trump, but I just function better if I'm a bit restrained in comments. Just bought the book Fire and Fury. 

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  4. Addendum: By clean coal I assume Trump means burying the CO2 emissions underground etc. But who knows what he means, I doubt he knows himself half the time. 

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  5. Clean coal = We give it a warm bubble bath before burning it.

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  6. Also => President Trump’s claim of growing ice does not reflect reality

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  7. nigelj @ 3

    Nigel, I think you will find Fire and Fury very interesting.  It is a fascinating description of the tug of war that has happened in the Trump administration between 3 factions to get "the ear" of The Donald.  Bannon representing the "alt right", Preibus representing the RNC, and Jarvanka (Jared and Ivanka) representing a somewhat Democrat viewpoint pushing in front of Trump a litany of CEOs that Jared would like to get to know better.

    Watching all of the recent information regarding Hope Hicks and the Nunes memo which is presently in the press makes more sense having read the book.

    This book is much more than a few "off the record" quotes from his entourage on what he is really like.

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  8. The American Meteorological Society has commented:

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