President Donald Trump on Monday dismissed a study produced by his own administration, involving 13 federal agencies and more than 300 leading climate scientists, warning of the potentially catastrophic impact of climate change.
Why, you ask?
“I don’t believe it,” Trump told reporters on Monday, adding that he had read “some” of the report.
On one level, this shouldn’t be surprising. Trump’s views on climate change at this point are very, very well established.
Just over eight years ago, he tweeted this: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” In 2014, he penned this tweet: “It’s late in July and it is really cold outside in New York. Where the hell is GLOBAL WARMING??? We need some fast! It’s now CLIMATE CHANGE.”
And then, this from last Wednesday: “Brutal and Extended Cold Blast could shatter ALL RECORDS - Whatever happened to Global Warming?”
All of which brings me to last Friday – 48 hours after Trump’s how-can-the-world’s-climate-be-changing-if-it’s-cold-in-half-the-country-on-one-day tweet – and the moved-up release of the Fourth National Climate Assessment.
If you missed the study’s release, well, that was the point. It was originally slated to be made public next month but was suddenly released on the day after Thanksgiving, aka Black Friday, when the country shops, eats, hangs with family and pays a total of zero attention to what’s going on in politics. Outside of Christmas and the actual day of Thanksgiving, there’s no better day to drop bad news that you don’t want people to see.
Because there are VERY few coincidences in politics, the decision to speed up the release of the report to the day after Thanksgiving – rather than, say, today – was clearly a move by the administration to cover up what they see to be bad news. Or, better put, news that challenges Trump’s fact-free position that all of this talk of global warming and climate change is belied by, uh, the fact that it was cold in the Northeast on the day before Thanksgiving.
The report, the second of four such annual studies commissioned by Congress, concludes not only that the world’s temperature is rising and but also that the preponderance of evidence suggests human actions play a role in it. The report’s authors conclude that the changing climate “is transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us.” And that, unless we change our practices and policies, there will be “substantial damages to the US economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades.”
The report goes on to detail the economic impact of climate change (hundreds of billions lost, with farms being hardest hit) and the physical toll it could take on our collective health, as factors like air quality, disease transmission by insects, food and water will “increasingly threaten the health and well-being of the American people.”
It’s, candidly, a terrifying read. Unless we start making some major changes – and soon – we face the very real potential of crossing the point of no return when it comes to the planet’s warming, and the consequences that result from it.
Earlier the White House downplayed the report, saying it relied on extreme models that were selected during the Obama administration.
It’s important to note here: This is not a partisan document. It was, as I mentioned above, produced by 13 agencies within the Trump administration – the result of Congress, in the 1980s, mandating that this sort of report be submitted every four years as a sort of reference point for lawmakers and legislators.
And yet, the chances of Trump taking any of the advice from this report, which was conducted by HIS administration, are somewhere close to zero. Why? Because it was surprisingly cold in a lot places in the country on Thanksgiving, of course!
This sort of thinking – anecdotes = data – is disproven time and time again by the actual science. A warming planet doesn’t mean there won’t be cold days. Or even cold weeks! Or months! It means that, in the long seep of history, the planet is getting hotter and hotter. And that those changes in the climate produce more wild and unpredictable weather events, like tornadoes and fires.
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Unfortunately, Trump’s willingness to ignore the conclusions of experts because it doesn’t jibe with what he wants the truth to be isn’t isolated to just the climate. Trump has repeatedly dismissed the unanimous conclusion of the country’s intelligence community that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election to help him and hurt Hillary Clinton. And of late, he has chosen to ignore the CIA’s conclusion that Mohammed bin Salman personally ordered the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey.
Trump’s disdain for the idea of climate change is also born of his broader suspicions of the United States being taken advantage of by other countries. In Trump’s conception, the US signs on to pledges to reduce its carbon footprint and the like and sticks to it while other competitor countries break the rules and force America to fight on the economic world stage with one hand tied behind its back.
Trump insisted Monday the US is “the cleanest we’ve ever been,” and said other countries weren’t keeping up.
“If we’re clean, but every other place on earth is dirty, that’s not so good,” he said. “So I want clean air, I want clean water, very important.”
What’s genuinely scary about all of this is that, unlike some random dude on the street who chooses to ignore the science on climate change, Donald Trump is in a position to have a considerable impact on how we approach (or don’t) solving the problem. He already has – pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord. That makes the US the only country in the world not signed on to the global attempt to curb climate change.
The decisions Trump makes – or, more likely, doesn’t – on climate change are not the sort of thing that are easily reversible. This latest report – you know, the one that the Trump administration sought to bury because its conclusions are at odds with the President’s personal beliefs – suggests they may not be reversible at all.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.