Trump's disbelief won't stop dangerous climate change

“I don’t believe it,” said Donald Trump when asked about the fourth national climate assessment, authored by 13 government agencies and hundreds of the US’s top climate scientists. His administration had tried to hide the report, publishing it on Black Friday when many Americans were either recovering from a Thanksgiving food coma or stampeding department store sales.

The administration’s plan backfired badly – the latest alarming climate science report became front-page news. Numerous Republican politicians were asked about it on TV news and politics shows, and their answers demonstrated that Trump’s climate science denial continues to pervade the GOP.

Republican party leaders’ answers ranged from platitudes – such as “our climate always changes” and “innovation” is all that is needed to solve the problem – to accusations that “a lot of these scientists are driven by the money”.

Addressing the latter point, one of the report’s lead authors, Prof Katharine Hayhoe, noted that many of its contributors were “paid zero dollars” and estimated that in the time she devoted to the assessment, she could have written eight of her own papers. Conversely, GOP politicians and operatives are paid millions of dollars annually by the fossil fuel industry. Some people are clearly driven by the money, and it’s not climate scientists.

Trump’s comments did not stop at disbelief – he also appeared to shift blame to other countries and tout the US’s clean air and water.

“You’re going to have to have China, and Japan, and all of Asia, and all of these other countries – you know, [the report] addresses our country. Right now, we’re at the cleanest we’ve ever been, and that’s very important to me. But if we’re clean but every other place on Earth is dirty, that’s not so good. So, I want clean air, I want clean water – very important,” the president said.

These comments confuse climate change with air pollution, but the two are connected. The national climate assessment report pointed out that climate change was exacerbating wildfires, which in turn create air pollution. The Camp fire in November produced so much smoke that California had the worst air quality in the world at the time.

A key figure showed that climate change had approximately doubled the area burned by wildfires in the western US, and the report noted that – contrary to the administration’s frequent claims – this increase was “more closely related to climate factors than to fire suppression, local fire management, or other non-climate factors”.


 The cumulative forest area burned by wildfires in the western US between 1984 and 2015. Photograph: Fourth National Climate Assessment Report

Trump’s claim that US air is “the cleanest it’s ever been” is also not strictly true. Despite a long-term downward trend, owing in large part to the replacement of coal power plants that the Trump administration is desperately trying to save, particulate matter levels were up slightly from 2016 to 2017.

The administration’s efforts to weaken and repeal every possible environmental regulation certainly do not merit credit for the long-term improvement in air and water quality in the US.

Trump’s efforts to shift blame to other countries is also at odds with the fact that every other nation in the world has signed up to the Paris climate accords and only one government has announced its intent to withdraw from them.

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Posted by dana1981 on Wednesday, 5 December, 2018

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