Trump’s assault on climate science will not make America great
Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA
A CHILL wind of change is blowing through climate research.
To nobody’s great surprise, given President Trump’s rhetoric to date, the White House is said to be ready to gut the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
According to documents seen by The Washington Post, NOAA – the federal government’s leading climate science agency – faces an overall budget cut of 17 per cent.
Its basic science arm, the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, will lose more than a quarter of its funds.
The money will be diverted to the military, on which the US already spends far more than any other country.
Some in the Trump camp claim they are not opposed to climate science, just to the “politicised” version of it now practised by NOAA and other agencies.
This is nonsense.
Climate science has been politicised only by those who deny its findings in the service of an antiquated model of US enterprise – one in which success depends on corporate freedom to trash the commons.
Most of the world recognises that cleaning up industry is not only morally responsible, but commercially sound too.
Even ExxonMobil, from whose corner office Trump plucked Rex Tillerson to be his secretary of state, has made the right noises about a carbon tax, despite its appalling track record on climate change.
Such a tax would impose rigour on carbon-intensive industries – and Exxon thinks it would win out in the subsequent competition.
But rather than putting pressure on it to act on its words, Trump has applauded its recidivist plans to expand its Gulf Coast operations.
In the time warp that is Trump’s White House, the environment is the enemy of commerce. On his first day in office, Trump signed a death warrant for Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which would have seen the US lead on efforts to slow and adapt to climate change.
The Environmental Protection Agency is facing even steeper cuts than NOAA – up to 40 per cent of its research budget (see “Deep cuts to environmental research in Trump’s budget proposal“). And a raft of measures seek to remove the EPA’s ability to keep US air and water clean.
In this, Trump is going against the will of most Americans, few of whom voted for more pollution.
And he is going against their best interests, too.
Much of the US is vulnerable to climate change, whether it be droughts in the west or storms in the east.
Trump can ignore this for now.
Given his gilded lifestyle, bluster and fondness for “alternative facts”, he may be able to keep ignoring it indefinitely. Ordinary Americans won’t.
A new forecast predicts that atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide will rise by 2.5 parts per million in 2017 (see “First yearly CO2 forecast predicts one of biggest rises ever“).
This week, we report both the mystery of solar brightening across the US corn belt (see “Brighter sky helped boost US crop yields – but it may not last“) and worrying ways in which climate change is affecting oceans (see “Plankton can save the ocean. But who will save the plankton?“). This is the kind of vital research Trump and his cronies think does not matter.
One Twitter account parodying Trump has medieval king Donaeld the Unready railing against a rival: “Canute. What a loser. Can’t even hold back the sea. It’s just water. We’re going to be so tough on the sea. Canute was too soft. Sad.”
The real Donald has cast himself as a latter-day King Canute, deluding himself that he is able to hold back the forces of nature with an executive order. Except, of course, that Canute was actually a wise ruler who wanted to show his followers that he didn’t have dominion over nature. The chances that Trump is doing the same? Zero. Sad indeed.
This article appeared in print under the headline “America last”
Press link for more: New Scientist