- Mr. Trump’s Pen
On 28 March, only a couple of months after he entered the Oval Office, Donald Trump, the 45th US President signed an executive order to instruct the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reverse the Clean Power Plan (CPP), as he pledged during the presidential campaign. The Clean Power Plan was one of Obama administration’s legacies, which aims to tackle climate change by significantly reducing carbon emissions. Trump’s executive order meant the reversing of the CPP and thus reopening of the US coal industry, turning its back against the global trend to shift towards renewable energy.
Launched in mid-2015, the Clean Power Plan places a moratorium on coal leasing, aiming to cut carbon emissions from fossil fuels and natural gas. The CPP demands each state to significantly reduce carbon emissions from their inner state power plants, seeking to eliminate 870 million tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2030. The monumental task is equivalent to pulling 80 million cars off the streets, and much work yet remains ahead.
Under the CPP, the EPA is legally responsible for regulating carbon dioxide emissions in the light of the Paris agreement on climate change, which plans on bringing global warming down to below pre-industrial temperatures. What Trump is doing is to undo the enormous efforts of scientists, government officials and diplomats who have worked towards this goal for many years, if not decades.
Trump’s deplorable policies are his vain attempts to bring jobs back in the US coal industry, but little evidence suggests that this goal can be achieved by revisiting the distant memories of the good old days in the post-war era when many people were engaged in physical labour as the main source of income. The world has moved on since then and has done so tremendously. The fact is that although the US produces 50% more coal now than in the 1940s, only one-eighth of the miners are employed today, according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics.
Thanks to mechanisation and automation, job losses are owed not necessarily to the spectre of immigrants but advancing technology that Silicon Valley symbolises. Coal miners have to retool themselves, as the reopening of the coal industry is simply not the answer for the reasons mentioned above, and more importantly, to keep on burning coal is not sustainable. In the light of the global trend, the industry is destined to shrink.
- Climate change has been institutionally undermined
In the past, debates about global warming and climate change were institutionally undermined. Indeed, the history of the post-truth politics did not begin recently. In the 1990s, many conservatives grew concerned over the possible economic price for a radical attempt to cut carbon emissions in the face of the mounting pressure from the scientific community. By institutionally and collectively casting doubt on the underlying science that reinforces the urgency for a climate policy, the public’s awareness of the issue was diluted to the point of distortion. So cunning and deceitful as it was that the Republican pollster Frank Luntz once wrote in a memo: “Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue making the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate.” (The Economist, 2016)
Under the influence of the conservatives alike, even respected organisations and scientific groups fuelled the scepticism over climate change. Some scientists denied the possibility of climate change, arguing that the global warming is merely a part of the cyclical process that this planet has gone through over millions of years. The false information clouded the dire state of the environment literally on a global scale. To make matters worse, no gatekeepers were vindicated enough to be able to deservedly regulate freely floating pieces of information with no reliable provenance.
Most scientists today, however, agree that global warming is an undeniable fact that needs to be tackled with the utmost urgency. A number of studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals indicate that 97% or more actively publishing climate scientists admit that the abnormal surge in climate over the past century is highly likely caused by human activities (Cook at al, 2016).
As it is shown in the graphs below, the current warming trend is unprecedented (Graph 1). Earth-orbiting satellites and other highly advanced technologies have enabled scientists to collect relevant data about the big picture of the planet and its changing climate, including the soaring level of heat-trapping carbon dioxide (Graph 2). The body of data that has been accumulated over decades points to the clear indication of the abnormal climate change.
(Graph 1): Changes in the Earth Temperature over the last 140 years
(Graph 2): Changes in Carbon Dioxide Levels over the last 400,000 years
The truth has finally prevailed and the international community has taken measurable steps to mitigate the harmful impact of human activities on the environment. The whole of the energy industry should veer to renewable energy more radically and robustly, or else our planet will remain in a critical condition. Given that, any attempt to reverse this worldwide enterprise is not only regressive but also damaging on a global scale.
Although these days, scientific views and evidence-based information do not seem to be fashionable, the seriousness of the matter is not something that we can simply ignore or brush aside.
- Betrayal of the next generations
Unfortunately, we have already betrayed our future generations in the realm of finance in many advanced economies. In order to cover deficits to sustain unsustainable pension schemes and welfare systems, many nations have borrowed that which has not even been earned from those yet to be born. Failure in one area is surely sufficient enough for us to feel that we can no longer afford to betray them in another. Indeed, how can we wish our children the best, while they will inherit from us both financial and environmental burdens?
In the absence of rational thinking, the humanity can be self-destructive, whether intentionally or otherwise, and our vulnerability as a species becomes particularly acute when exposed to our short-sightedness that often inflicts serious self-harm upon us.
Cook, J., Oreskes, N., Doran, T, P., Anderegg, R, L, W., Verheggen, B., Maibach, W, E., Carlton, J, S., Lewandowsky, S., Skuce, G, A., Green, A, S. (2016). Consensus on consensus: a synthesis of consensus estimates on human-caused global warming. Environmental Research Letters, Vol.11, No.4.
M.S.L.J. (2017). Scorched earth: Donald Trump launches an attack on climate-change policy. The Economist.
The Economist. (2016). The post-truth world: Yes, I’d lie to you. The Economist. 10 September 2016.
NASA. Global Climate Change. (2017). Scientific consensus: Earth’s climate is warming. [Online] available at: www.climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus [accessed on 20 April 2017]
NASA. Global Climate Change. (2017). Climate change: How do we know? [Online] available at:
https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence [accessed on 20 April 2017]