Monday, February 06, 2017

The Trump Effect on Climate Change

Fears that Trump’s anti-environmental harangues would turn out to be reality once he got installed as President have come to pass. His spate of executive orders challenging known science and prudent care of our environment threatens to disrupt decades of national and international efforts to address Climate Change. A national frenzy, whether orchestrated purposely or not, is now in play in the form of the disturbing dazzle of the Donald’ antics, designed to steal away the public’s and the media’s attention. From this point on, one of the unknown unknowns (things we didn’t even know we didn’t know) confounding the planning for Climate Change is now unfolding, a tipping point of sorts that might be called the Trump Effect on Climate Change. The excrement has collided with the rotary oscillator: 

Since the inauguration:
  • ·         EPA airbrushes climate webpage as Pruitt nears confirmation US federal environment agency has quietly removed a reference to UN climate cooperation from its website Scott Pruitt is on his way to approval as Donald Trump’s environment chief after Republican senators waved him through a committee vote on Thursday. The controversial choice, who as Oklahoma attorney general sued the Environmental Protection Agency he is about to lead, got through despite a Democrat boycott. He is expected to pass a full senate vote next week. Even before he takes up the position, mentions of climate cooperation have been scrubbed from the EPA website, in a clear signal of intent from the new US administration. (January 3, 2017) Climate Home
  • ·         Top download from any federal site right now is Park Service report on climate change The events of the past week have been worrying to advocates of government action on climate change, with the removal of climate priorities from the White House website, the order to freeze all Environmental Protection Agency contracts and the inauguration of a president who said he is “not a big believer” in the fact that humans have played a role in changing Earth's climate. But these events have also been very good for website traffic. According to data from, which tracks Web traffic on all .gov websites, several pages related to climate change have been extremely popular in the week since President Trump's inauguration. (January 27, 2017) The Washington Post [more on Climate Change and Environmental Education in our area]
  • ·         U.S. will change course on climate policy, says former EPA transition head The United States will switch course on climate change and pull out of a global pact to cut emissions, said Myron Ebell, who headed U.S. President Donald Trump's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition team until his inauguration. Ebell is the director of global warming and international environmental policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a U.S. conservative think tank, and helped to guide the EPA's transition after Trump was elected in November until he was sworn in on Jan. 20. Trump, a climate skeptic, campaigned on a pledge to boost the U.S. oil and gas drilling and coal mining industries by reducing regulation. (January 30, 2017) Reuters [more on Climate Change in our area]
  • ·         Impact of EPA freeze on Holley vacant homes One of several executive orders President Trump signed earlier this week included a freeze on the Environmental Protection Agency. That meant all contracts and grants being issued were put on hold. Now we're learning that freeze has been lifted. But people living in Holley are worried about the impact on a push to occupy eight vacant homes. As Rachel Spotts reports, we’re talking about the site of the Diaz Chemical spill back in 2002. After the spill, many neighbors left their homes, in fear they had been contaminated. A few years later, the EPA bought the abandoned homes, and neighbors say it’s been a battle ever since. (January 27, 2017) WHEC Rochester [more on Environmental Health and Brownfields in our area]
  • ·         Trump Wants to Downplay Global Warming. Louisiana Won’t Let Him “Mother Nature is threatening to kick our people out.” On a recent morning in Baton Rouge, a thousand miles from where Senate Democrats were jousting with Donald Trump’s nominee to run the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about whether humans are warming the planet, the future of U.S. climate policy was being crafted in a small room in the east wing of the Louisiana Capitol. The state’s 7,700-mile shoreline is disappearing at the fastest rate in the country. Officials had gathered to consider a method of deciding which communities to save—and which to abandon to the Gulf of Mexico. Bren Haase, chief of planning for the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), was presenting his team’s updated Coastal Master Plan. Five years in the making and comprising 6,000 pages of text and appendices, the document details $50 billion in investments over five decades in ridges, barrier islands, and marsh creation. Tucked into the plan was a number whose significance surpasses all others: 14 feet, the height beyond which Haase’s agency has concluded homes couldn’t feasibly be elevated. (January 26, 2017) Bloomberg [more on Climate Change in our area]
  • ·         Official: Trump wants to slash EPA workforce, budget The former head of President Donald Trump's transition team at the Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday he expects the new administration to seek significant budget and staff cuts. Myron Ebell said in an interview with The Associated Press that Trump is likely to seek significant reductions to the agency's workforce — currently about 15,000 employees nationwide. Ebell, who left the transition team last week, declined to discuss specific numbers of EPA staff that could be targeted for pink slips. Asked what he would personally like to see, however, Ebell said slashing the agency's size by about half would be a good start. (January 27, 2017) AP [more on Environmental Health and Brownfields and Environmental Health in our area]
  • ·         Global Warning: 24 hours on the climate change frontline as Trump becomes president – as it happened With climate change deniers moving into the White House, the Guardian is spending 24 hours focusing climate change happening now. After reporting from Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas, we’re now focusing on how warming temperatures will affect the Asia-Pacific region  Our partner, Univision News, is hosting a parallel event in Spanish today. Follow it here  The Tumblr community is joining us with personal posts about climate change. See them here We’re just a few hours from Donald Trump being inaugurated as the president of the United States, and we’re signing off from our 24-hour Global Warning live blog: a marathon effort from our Guardian offices in London, New York and Sydney, as well as our correspondents dotted around the globe. What we’ve seen, as we’ve travelled around the world, is that regardless of what climate deniers (yes, deniers) like Trump may say about the science, the stark reality is that it is happening now. (January 20, 2017) The Guardian [more on Climate Change in our area]

Though much data are factored into climate models, scientists would have been exceptionally imaginative to think of a scenario much worse than business as usual. In climate models, there are predicted ranges from where scientists characterize a world were humanity addresses Climate Change to a dismal scenario where humanity does not. In the best situation, we would change our behavior, experience some uncomfortable warming because of the inherent lag time of greenhouse gasses in our climate system, but eventually adapt and live sustainably. In the worst case scenario, business as usual, we’d find ourselves continuing to burn fossil fuels, trying to adapt to the warming, but eventually failing because the consequences of Climate Change would overwhelm us.

The Trump Effect is where there is a concerted effort to back-peddle on what little humanity has already achieved towards solving this complicated, existential threat. It’s an extreme-business-as-usual scenario at odds with science itself. The Trump Effect threatens to plow most of the fossil fuels in the ground up into the air—a scenario scientists have described as game over. The Trump Effect threatens to cause massive economic conflicts among nations as most nations favor renewable energy with new technology, while the most powerful nation insists on old, dirty technology. The Trump Effect increases the likelihood of massive social unrest as nations fight amongst each other for enough food to eat and potable water to drink. The Trump Effect is beyond business as usual because it is a spectacular ratcheting up of climate warming along with tying our hands from even attempting to adapt. It is an ultra-form of the Backfire Effect “When your deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, your beliefs get stronger.”

Now, our governmental environment and scientific agencies will be offering less stability instead of more; less cooperation between nations on Climate Change instead of more; more volatility in the world market, instead of less; less faith in our already mediocre media (as Trump has declared war on the media), instead of more, and less guidance by science, instead of more. 

Trump’s anti-environmental enactments already have US scientists trying to defend their own jobs and years of painstaking, peer-reviewed facts. Things have reached such fevered pitch that scientist are now going to march on Washington, DC on Earth Day.

The March for Science is Set to Happen on Earth Day Scientists officially have a date where they’ll be taking to the streets. The March for Science has been scheduled for Saturday, April 22 in Washington, D.C. A growing constellation of marches are also scheduled for that day in cities across the U.S. What began as a Reddit conversation has grown into a movement of scientists and science lovers standing up for evidenced-based policy making and inclusivity in the science community.   The date of the march isn’t just an average Saturday. April 22 is Earth Day, first celebrated in 1970. The original Earth Day is seen by many as a turning point in the environmental movement. The year itself also marks a major turning point for the U.S. government and environmental policy. In 1970, Richard Nixon signed the Environmental Protection Agency into existence and it began operating that December. (February 1, 2017) Climate Central 

Many people may think a march by scientists is bad idea. Scientists in the thousands, carrying signs, shouting and chanting? Really? Really. We must remember that this anti-science, climate denial thing, is happening within the US, not the rest of the world. If we who know better don’t stand up for science, we demonstrate to the world that all of us here in the United States find anti-science a viable intellectual option. It ain’t. What is happening in the United States, being bullied by climate deniers, needs to get out to the world. We need to demonstrate that the rest of us (most of us) haven’t given up our principles and respect for science just because it pisses off those whose view of reality is clouded by ideology. BTW: Scientists are NOT the ones politicizing this. Scientists would rather do their wonky lab-and-field jobs—which is now critical to our collective survival.

We can speculate about how the Trump Effect came about. We can try to imagine how to convince people who are just thrilled that Trump has thrown a monkey wrench into science and politics as usual:

How to bridge the political divide with better moral arguments “In this divisive and polarized era how do you bridge the political divide between left and right? How do you persuade the people on the other side to see things your way? New research by sociologist Robb Willer and psychologist Matthew Feinberg suggests that the answer is in learning how to cross something they call the empathy gap.” (November 4, 2016, You Are Not So Smart Podcast)

And while this psychological-aisle-crossing may be helpful for understanding the communication problem going on with Climate Change, it’s unlikely to effect a necessary shift in attitudes. Ultimately, if both sides of the Climate Change issue don’t accept mainstream, 97% peer-reviewed, climate science, then it’s a pointless exercise. There’s no giving ground on science, even if we wanted to.

The Trump Effect is now in play and we will have to deal with it, ready or not.

Time passes. 

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