Trump & Turnbull refuse to consider that 97% of climate scientists could be right
Even though smart climate policies could save tens of trillions of dollars.
Tue 29 May 2018
Last week, the Washington Post obtained a White House internal memo that debated how the Trump administration should handle federal climate science reports.
The memo presented three options without endorsing any of them: conducting a “red team/blue team” exercise to “highlight uncertainties in climate science”; more formally reviewing the science under the Administrative Procedure Act; or deciding to just “ignore, and not seek to characterize or question, the science being conducted by Federal agencies and outside entities.”
In short, the White House considered ‘debating’ established climate science, casting doubt on scientists’ conclusions, or just ignoring them. Accepting and/or acting on the findings of the scientific experts is not an option they’re willing to consider.
Meanwhile, a paper published in Nature last week concluded that limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures would save more than $20tn as compared to a temperature of 2°C. The carbon pollution cuts needed to achieve the 1.5°C target would cost about $300bn more than efforts to meet 2°C. In other words, the economic benefits of the more aggressive target would outweigh its costs by a factor of about 70-to-1.
Current international climate policies will only limit global warming to about 3–3.5°C global warming, and America’s policies are “critically insufficient” to meet either the 2°C or 1.5°C targets. Under the Trump administration, the US has no plans to try and cut its carbon pollution, and in fact the administration has been taking every possible step to undo established climate policies and increase pollution from the coal and oil industries, even though global warming will especially hurt Trump country.
Basically, taking aggressive action to curb global warming would save the world a lot of money, and it would especially benefit the economies in southern, conservative states. But it wouldn’t be good for the fossil fuel industry, and the Trump administration has prioritized short-term corporate profits above all else, including American welfare and lives.
Ignoring experts is stupid
There’s a 97% expert consensus that humans are causing global warming, and the scientific research is clear that the consequences of continued rapid climate change could be devastating for the economy and for all species on Earth.
The case for the Trump administration approach – ignoring and casting doubt on the conclusions of climate science experts – is that of a bad gambler. It’s not a 100% consensus; maybe the less than 3% of climate contrarians are onto something. Perhaps the experts are wrong and climate change won’t be so bad.
If the stakes were something inconsequential like a Trump steak, that would be fine, but it should go without saying that betting the future of humanity and life on Earth on a less than 3% long shot is a bad idea. The stakes could not be higher. Prudent risk management dictates that we should be taking serious steps to mitigate the chances of such a disastrous outcome. That’s why Americans buy home and auto and health insurance. It’s why fewer than 17% of Americans today are smokers, down from 42% in 1965.
Saving the Republican Party
Not only is global warming denial terrible policy, but it’s bad for the long-term health of the Republican Party. There’s a climate change generation gap – most young Americans realize that humans are causing global warming, and young conservatives want their leaders to do something about it. Climate change impacts will only become more severe over time, and today’s youth know that they’ll have to live with the consequences of our actions today. They simply can’t afford denial, and the GOP risks losing these voters forever by willfully ignoring the problem that poses an existential threat to young Americans.
There are a few glimmers of hope in the party. Trump’s new Nasa administrator now accepts climate science. Eight House Republicans signed a letter to leaders of the Appropriations Committee urging them to reject any provisions in the 2019 spending bill that would undermine efforts to combat climate change. The conservative Climate Leadership Council proposed a free market, small government, revenue-neutral carbon tax ready to go as soon as the GOP can elect a leadership that’s willing to make a great climate change deal.
But right now the GOP is still stuck being, as Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA) described it five years ago, “the stupid party.” Its leadership won’t even consider the possibility that 97% of climate science experts are right. That denial is going to be very expensive, and as Americans increasingly accept the realities of climate change, it will also land the GOP on the endangered species list.
Press link for more: The Guardian