Climate Change Denial, The GOP, And President-elect Donald J. Trump
PEOTUS Donald J. Trump says climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese. Tell that to the people of Gatlinburg, Tennessee who just lost property, friends and family to freakish November forest fires — calling what occurred “an apocalyptic nightmare” — or the people of red state Georgia devastated by tornadoes in late November.
A 2014 graph, “Peak of Tornado Season Shifting Earlier in Tornado Alley”, by Climate Central shows the improbability of this week’s devastating tornados.
Rain accompanying the tornados failed to alleviate a severe drought afflicting the red-state Southeast. From the United States Drought Monitor before the deadly Gatlinburg fire:
As reported by the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), hundreds (at least 212) new fires have started in the Southeast, with 30 of them classified as large wildfires (100 acres or more), and burn bans were widespread across the region. Streams were at record and near-record low levels. Severe agricultural impacts (stock ponds drying up, winter feed being used to keep cattle alive since fall started) were widespread across the South and Southeast. … In Alabama, ponds were drying up in and around Lowndes County, and cattlemen were hauling water and using winter hay to feed cattle since late summer. As of November 22, Oneonta, Alabama, in the northeast part of the state, has gone 94 consecutive days without measurable precipitation. In Mississippi, the USDA has received reports of ponds drying up and cattle producers having to feed hay, in some cases already using up their entire hay supply for the winter months. Rye grass that was planted in the beginning of October has yet to emerge. As described by the Georgia State Climatologist, agricultural impacts due to dry soils in Turner/Tift/Irwin/Worth/Ben Hill/Wicox/Dodge county areas have been just detrimental for peanut and cattle farmers. In Decatur County, dryland winter forage is not being attempted at this time. If there is no irrigation, the small grains have emerged and died. In Coffee County, unless irrigated, small grains for grazing are naught. In Coweta County, hay is becoming harder to find and even irrigated areas are now suffering due to low water levels in ponds and creeks. The USDA has received reports of wells going bad and stock ponds drying up in Holmes County, Florida. According to November 20 USDA reports, 100% of the topsoil moisture and 98% of the subsoil moisture in Alabama was rated short or very short (dry or very dry).
Climate change denial is alive and well in the GOP. Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, Attorney General designee, is a Republican leader of anti-science, global warming denialists. In a 2015 radio interview with Tony Perkins, president of the right-wing Family Research Council, Senator Sessions said that climate change is a conspiracy designed to afflict the poor. (The interview was recently removed from the organization website.) Sessions called climate change the least important issue facing people, but today Alabamans afflicted by severe drought may not align with his thinking.
Donald J. Trump has flip-flopped on core positions that fired up supporters during the campaign. Since Nov. 8, he has backtracked from outright climate change denial; “there is some connectivity” between human activity and climate change.
But in a recent Fox News interview, chief of staff Reince Priebus ― who attended law school in Miami, an American city at most risk from sea level rise ― pulled away the Trump olive branch to fact: “As far as this issue on climate change – the only thing he (Trump) was saying after being asked a few questions about it is, look, he’ll have an open mind about it but he has his default position, which most of it is a bunch of bunk, but he’ll have an open mind and listen to people.”
Today, GOP leaders like Senator Sessions are hiding behind fake facts and false arguments. In their view, climate change “theory” is part of a world government conspiracy, “a power grab,” that penalizes impoverished people. Moreover in the Sessions interview with the Family Research Council, Sessions advances the argument that climate change adaptation is not only a waste of money for no return, it will also inhibit our ability to fight terrorism.
Despite these post-fact arguments, the unstated GOP Ten Commandments of climate change are clear enough to observers:
1) Climate change is like the weather: there is nothing we can do about it.
2) Man is top predator. Other species must adapt or die.
3) If some part of climate change is man-made, whatever happens is God’s will.
4) We know what is best for you. More golf courses, less public lands.
5) As the party of limited government, environmental regulations are self-defeating.
6) As the party of capitalism, climate-driven policies are wasteful unless in our donors’ interests.
7) If one size does not fit all, then existing energy subsidies will be protected before any additional subsidies are adopted.
8) Dissenters will be isolated from decision-makers.
9) If there is a dispute on climate change, leadership will side with existing jobs.
10) We will adapt economic behavior to climate change as it happens, not before.
President-elect Trump and red state GOP leaders ought to take a short course on logarithmic change because the massive accumulation of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere is now forcing climate change impacts in chaotic, non-linear ways. The evidence is piling up around us.
The implication of climate change denialism is clear: if the GOP Ten Commandments prove wrong, the resulting social and economic chaos will require military intervention on civilian populations. This isn’t alarmism. It follows directly from the threat assessment of climate change by the U.S. Department of Defense. (Republicans in Congress continue to clamor for cutting any military expenditures related to climate change contingency planning.)
And there is more. “Climate change is set to cause a refugee crisis of “unimaginable scale”, according to senior military figures, who warn that global warming is the greatest security threat of the 21st century and that mass migration will become the “new normal”. (”Climate change will stir ‘unimaginable’ refugee crisis, says military”, Dec. 1, 2016, UK Guardian)
Right now, Creation needs more than prayers.
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