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The Trump administration has entered Stage 5 climate denial

Posted on 8 October 2018 by dana1981


A cartoon illustration of the Trump administration’s climate policy logic Illustration: John Cook

Several years ago, I wrote about the five stages of climate denial.  To date, the Trump administration has pinballed between Stages 1, 2, and 3, calling climate change a Chinese hoaxdisputing the degree of human causation (100% since 1950), and claiming it’s not a threat.  But the purpose of climate science denial is to obstruct climate policies, and science denial doesn’t hold up in court.  Unlike in the political realm, judicial decisions are generally based on evidence. 

The Trump administration wants to roll back the Obama administration’s increased vehicle fuel efficiency standards.  But under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), “if a proposed major federal action is determined to significantly affect the quality of the human environment,” the agency has to publish an environmental impact statement (EIS).


Vehicle fuel efficiency standards to date (blue) and required under the Obama administration rules (green) and the Trump administration’s proposal (red) Illustration: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

And so, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was required to publish an EIS detailing how the proposed fuel efficiency rollbacks would impact the environment, including via climate change.  Here, the Trump administration shifted to Stage 4 and 5 climate denial.

We’re screwed anyway, what’s the big deal?

In modeling the proposal’s climate impact, the NHTSA assumed we will follow a scenario in which Earth’s average surface temperatures will warm 3.5°C (6.3°F) by 2100.  That’s surprisingly realistic – it’s a scenario in which countries follow through with their current climate policies but don’t enact any more stringent ones in the future.  The problem is that the NHTSA assessment then concluded the fuel efficiency rollbacks aren’t important because they won’t have a significant impact on those hotter global temperatures:

The impacts of the Proposed Action [freezing fuel efficiency standards] and alternatives on global mean surface temperature, precipitation, sea level, and ocean pH would be extremely small in relation to global emissions trajectories. This is because of the global and multi-sectoral nature of climate change. These effects would be small, would occur on a global scale, and would not disproportionately affect the United States.

This is true.  The Trump administration proposal decreases vehicle fuel efficiency requirements in the United States for the years 2020–2025.  Of course it won’t have a big global impact relative to all greenhouse gas emissions from two centuries of burning fossil fuels.  The report continues:

The emissions reductions necessary to keep global emissions within this carbon budget could not be achieved solely with drastic reductions in emissions from the U.S. passenger car and light truck vehicle fleet but would also require drastic reductions in all U.S. sectors and from the rest of the developed and developing world.

We could make this argument about literally any and every individual climate policy.  Just like a single step won’t move a person safely out of the path of an oncoming truck, no single climate policy will significantly change global temperatures eight decades from now.  It will take a myriad of climate policies passed by countries all around the world.  That’s precisely why virtually every country signed the Paris climate agreement.  The report’s maddening illogic doesn’t stop there:

Click here to read the rest

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Comments 1 to 10:

  1. Quote: "Trump...[has] taken the nihilistic viewpoint that we’re screwed and nothing we do matters."  Proverbs, ch 23, verse 7: "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he".

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  2. Five steps to 1.5 C = Bullshit

    1) Global emissions of CO2 need to decline by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030

    - This will never happen, period.

    2) Renewables are estimated to provide up to 85% of global electricity by 2050

    - 85% global electricity = 18% of total world power demand. You can't say emissions must be 0% at the same time only 18% of world fossil demand is renewable. 50% of Europe's renewable electricity comes from burning trees, and they want to double the amount of trees they burn by 2030.

    3) Coal is expected to reduce to close to zero

    - China is now building more new coal plants than there are in all the U.S.. China is reducing solar panel output 40% over 2 years. This is totally ignored.

    4) Up to seven million sq km of land will be needed for energy crops (a bit less than the size of Australia)

    - By 2030 we'll need 50% more food and 30% more water. When they speak of reforesting, they're talking tree farms not biodiversity.

    5) Global net zero emissions by 2050

    - 2050 = political, 2040 = reality

    **What does it mean?**

    A 45% reduction in energy = job losses. Decoupling growth from emissions is bullshit. The IPCC states that 2 C will only have a moderate impact on tourism, a statement so idiotic it defies explanation.

    These IPCC reports are extorted and distorted half-truths based on political expediency. They already deleted a statement that 1.5 C = war and mass migration.

    There is no cohesive thought on this subject, let alone a coherent plan that makes any sense, whatsoever.


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  3. Just take a look at this video NASA posted some time ago => One Year on Earth – Seen From 1 Million Miles

    I read an awful lot of comments there: Flat earthers, conspiracy theorists, moon landings have never happened, NASA is lying to make more $$$... you name it. It doesn't wonder me a bit any more that this country is in deep denial. It's a disgrace. Lunacy at its finest. I thought Americans were all patriots. So why are these illiterates then trying to discredit a state agency which has generated much reputation for the US? As a European I'm just stunned about the amount of stupidity I'm facing there. That can't be just "Russian trolls". Misinformation by many mainstream media and an elite education system have taken their toll. I've totally lost faith in the "land of the free". Sorry, folks. That's the land of the poorly educated, the land of lunacy. Regrettably, that's all I can conclude.

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  4. The IPCC Special Report on 1.5ºC, here commented by Gavin Schmidt on Real Climate, is in line with my litlle video clip, Scratching the 1.5°C Jazz

    Video clip on YouTube

    So enjoy the Jazz as long as you can still hear the tunes.

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    Moderator Response:

    [BW] Updated image size as it was breaking the page format.

  5. Just a wee, somewhat irrelevant niggle.  Anthropogenic climate change started 6 to 8 thousand years ago as rice cultivation expanded and the plough began to be used.  At that time it just succeeded in holding off our next slide into a glaciation (Read Ruddiman, Ploughs Plagues and Petroleum).  Now we have too much of a good thing and Agriculture, if practiced according to David R Montgomery's book Growing a Revolution would contribute to putting some of the carbon back into the soil.  Not the whole solution by any means but we need a shotgun of measures to reverse where we are likely headed.  The good thing is that the measures described in David's book result in so many blessings in addition to putting carbon back into the soil while, would you believe, improving the bottom line of the farmers. 

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  6. @5. William

    Your claim that "Anthropogenic climate change started 6 to 8 thousand years ago as rice cultivation expanded and the plough began to be used. At that time it just succeeded in holding off our next slide into a glaciation" is not supported by the data. At that time the planet was just at the height of the last interglacial.

    Temperature anomalies 22,000 years

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    Moderator Response:

    [BW] resized image

  7. Recommended supplemtal readings from the New York Times:

    Major Climate Report Describes a Strong Risk of Crisis as Early as 2040 by Coral Davenport, Climate, New York Times, Oct 7, 2018

    Dire Climate Warning Lands With a Thud on Trump’s Desk by Mike Landler & Coral Davenport, Politics. New York Times, Oct 8, 2018

    As Storms Keep Coming, FEMA Spends Billions in ‘Cycle’ of Damage and Repair by Kevin Sack & John Schwartz, US, New York Times, Oct 8, 2018

    Coal Is Killing the Planet. Trump Loves It., Opinion by Editorial Board, New York Times, Oct 8, 2018

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  8. Sir Charles:

    your graph does not include enough data.  From the Vostok ice core:

    vostok ice core

    Note that the graph has the present on the left hand side.

    Examining this graph I note that the three previous  interglacial periods start with temperature rising to a steep maximum.  Then the maximum almost immediately starts to decrease.  In the current interglacial, there have been about ten thousand years of temperatures near the maximum.

    Ruddiman has a lot of support for his claim that prehistoric farmers started climate change.

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  9. Ruddiman has just posted a guest article over at

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  10. Based on lots of reading, particularly “the Enigma of Reason” by Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber that I am currently reading, I have learned that all opinions likely start as Intuitive thoughts. Sometimes reasoning is applied to figure out why the Intuitive preference is what it is (science and other learning do this). When it is a matter of personal entertainment, nobody potentially being harmed as a result, the reason for an Intuitive preference does not matter. However, when there is a potential for harm then altruistic reasoned justification is essential (I learned and applied that to become a constantly improving professional engineer).

    Altruism is a very good term to use when discussing the responses to climate science of people, particularly leaders who should be leading by example. Unlike terms such as 'Ethical, Moral, Good, Helpful, Reasoned, or Freedom', it is very hard to make altruism mean whatever someone wants it to mean. Altruism is 'Self-sacrifice for the benefit of others'. It is the opposite of Egoism.

    All 5 stages of climate science denial are indeed attempts to delay the corrections of what has developed that are required for humanity to develop a sustainable better future.

    Those delaying tactics, and other unacceptable actions by clearly unjustified leaders and winners, have a common basis. It is Anti-Altruism in response to the improving awareness and understanding that Altruism is required to govern all human activities in order for humanity to have a future (altruism can be understood to be basis for all of the Sustainable Development Goals).

    My working hypothesis/theory regarding altruism/ethics related to the SDGs, particularly applicable to the climate action goal (more than enough supporting evidence that it is not just a hypothesis), is that for humanity and civilization to have a future it is becoming increasingly apparent that Altruism has to be governing and limiting all human activity. And political groups have been evolving in response to improving awareness and understanding of the unacceptability of unsustainable and harmful socioeconomic developments. Some have become more altruistic. Others have not.

    Those choosing to be less altruistic, or resisting becoming more altruistic, do not like being challenged to altruistically justify what they want to believe and do. They were regionally winning support around the world because of the appearances of economic improvement and advancement that were being developed. That success has sputtered as the unsustainability, unfairness and unacceptability of the economic developments of 'people freer to believe what they want and do as they please without being governed by altruism' became harder to hide, deny or excuse.

    Anti-altruism can be understood to be the root cause of almost all conflict. Altruism vs. Altruism is a debate, discussion, or an argument with a reasoned resolution, not a conflict. Anti-altruistic political parties want people focused on polarizing and divisive personal-trigger desires that prevent them from being more altruistic. They also need people to be less aware of the Altruism vs. Anti-Altruism conflict. The anti-altruists identify or create other conflicts, including making-up them up, for people to focus on rather than becoming more aware of the more important fundamental conflict of Altruism vs Anti-Altruism.

    In the Feb 29, 1960 issue of Time magazine Ayn Rand stated that “If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject.” and “Capitalism and Altruism are incompatible ... capitalism and altruism cannot coexist in man or in the same society.”

    Ayn Rand's observations were correct, but she came to the wrong conclusion. Since every human can understand that it is better for the future of humanity if they behave altruistically, the correct conclusion is that capitalism discourages the development of altruism and encourages the development of anti-altruism if it can be gotten away with.

    Any competition for impressions of superiority relative to others encourages the development of anti-altruism (egoism). It is seen all the time. And rules and enforcement to limit behaviour need to be developed whenever competition driven anti-altruism creates the potential for harmful results.

    More potential for personal benefit creates more temptation to be anti-altruistic, because the less altruistic have a competitive advantage (advantage increasing the less altruistic they can get away with being). This is especially true in mass-advertised capitalism and politics.

    Altruism is not an accounting balancing evaluation. It sets a minimum standard of acceptability of “Do No Harm”. And it establishes the open-ended inspirational objective of helping others. There is no limit to how much you can help. It is anti-altruistic to compare the perceived harm done to future generations with some perceived cost or lost opportunity to current generations. Harm to future generations is altruistically unacceptable, no mater how beneficial it may be for the current generation to cause that future harm or how costly it is to avoid producing future harmful consequences.

    Pointing out the unacceptability of greedier and less tolerant people Uniting and claiming to be Right produces some interesting responses. The claims include:

    • claiming that 'explaining the unacceptability of greed and that it needs to be corrected' is an act of greed by someone who is jealous or wants to steal wealth or is intolerant of those who are greedier.
    • claiming that 'explaining the unacceptability of intolerant attitudes and actions and that they need to be corrected' is being intolerant of the less tolerant.
    • many other poor excuses that sound good but are not rationally justifiable.

    All that the greedy and intolerant have are poor excuses for wanting to behave less altruistically. They can understand that they want to do things that harm others. But, they allow what they want to over-power their ability to be altruistic. Because they understand they cannot get what they want if they are limited by altruism.

    The Future of Humanity is in Question - Altruism is the Answer

    Altruism! What is it Good For? - The Future of Humanity

    I have been working on improving my understanding of what is going on for a while. And I have always struggled to come up with punchy banner statements for what I am understanding, partly because I was not really clear about what I was learning. But now I can offer the above for everyone to use and improve (I am not interested in reward or recognition for developing this understanding. Similar understanding has been developed in all of recorded human history. I altruistically hope that sharing in this way helps increase altruism in the general population)

    People simply being freer to believe whatever they want and do as they please without altruistic self-governing or external altruistic governing is developing a potentially endless stream of unsustainable harmful activity. Less regulation of human activity is the type of environment that the anti-altruists prefer. It is the type of environment they can thrive in (to the detriment of others, especially to the detriment of future generations).

    If Altruism and its restrictions of acceptable behaviour is not the Overall Governing Objective and Measure of Acceptability, then harm to others, like climate challenges unjustifiably created by current day pursuits of perceptions of prosperity and superiority relative to others, will never be sustainably ended. In fact, those problems will be made as big as can be gotten away with.

    Without Altruism responsibly governing and limiting human activity there will be no sustainable future for humanity, only an eternity of harm being created by people anti-altruistically pursuing personal benefit and glory (humans will always be on this planet, but humanity and civilization may not).

    (I presented more thoughts about this in my recent comments on “2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #38”)

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