The Southwest is broiling. Are you paying attention, President Trump?
By Jill Filipovic June 20, 2017
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
Jill Filipovic: There’s plenty of reason to believe extreme heat in West is climate change portent. Yet Trump, many in GOP continue to deny reality.
She says they are mistaken to believe their base is with them on this: they will be as affected by ruined crops, rising sea level as everyone else.
(CNN) Record temperatures. Roads cracking and buckling. Planes that can’t take off. Power knocked out. Wildfires raging. These are just some of the trying conditions currently roiling America’s West Coast, which is in the midst of a record-breaking heatwave.
Nervous about how these disruptions will negatively impact the economy and even cost human life? You should be. And there’s more to come.
Changing weather patterns are the new normal, thanks to decades of trashing the environment and a refusal from many in the party currently controlling Washington, the Republicans — and their corporate patrons — to even acknowledge climate change as a reality, let alone do anything about it.
Entire nations may soon be under water. Mega-cities that are home to hundreds of millions are set to drown, leaving huge numbers of people stranded, constraining already-limited resources, fueling violence and competition over those resources, and creating a whole new category of need: climate refugees. A delayed flight out of Phoenix will soon be the least of our worries.
Yes, of course, heat waves happen, and the causes are complex. There is not a direct A to B line from “pollute the environment” and “die in a scorching June.” But there is virtually no real dissent that the Earth is getting warmer. The ice at the poles of our oceans is melting. Irregular and dangerous weather patterns are increasing. Sea levels are rising.
We have polluted, depleted and abused this planet so badly that there is much damage that can’t be undone. But there remain ways to rein in the ills we continue to reap — and ways to at least slow our progress toward a chaotic and barren global hellscape.
Even if you are a climate change skeptic and doubt human agency in this crisis — if you write off the consensus of the overwhelming majority of scientists who study this issue — now that we are regularly faced with weather extremes, why not at least entertain the idea that scientists are onto something?
And if you allow that you just might be wrong — that climate change could be real — how about reconciling to the idea that the downside of doing nothing is so immensely catastrophic that it’s our immediate obligation to act?
Let’s say the climate change skeptics get their way and we don’t act according to the pleas of environmentalists and scientists. If the doubters are right, then the upside is that we save a good deal of money on palliative measures. If they’re wrong, though, and if people who study the environment professionally are in fact better able to predict its condition than businessmen and politicians, the downside is massive — many will die.
What marginally sane person would ever take that gamble?
Our President and many in the Republican Party, it turns out.
For one example, candidate Trump made a campaign pledge to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency, and as President has settled instead for appointing an administrator who is cozy with the oil and gas industry; who is reluctant to acknowledge the human causes of global warming; who has announced cuts that essentially gut the agency that stands between Americans and environmental disaster. For his part, the President has signed an executive order targeting regulations that had aimed to slow climate change.
For another, Trump has backed the country out of the Paris climate agreement — a move wildly opposed by Americans!
This is just a short list (there is more) of the steps this administration is taking to undo climate protections.
In all, it represents a shocking combination of greed and shortsightedness, compounded by an apparent urge to appeal to the worst impulses of the Trump base — people he and Republicans seem to assume are motivated by an urge to stick it to Prius-driving egghead liberals, even if doing so means their grandchildren might suffer or perish in a world of flooded metropolises, un-breathable air and expansive, unlivable deserts.
Surely this calculation is wrong: Republican voters whose livelihoods depend on the ability to harvest corn crops in Iowa or ship goods to their store in Arizona (or who live near the water and can’t afford flood insurance that’s more than their mortgage) can take a look around and realize this “see no evil” strategy is going to hurt them, and soon.
Indeed, that the American right has transformed climate change into a partisan issue defies all reason and rational self-interest. Climate change will have the largest and most immediate impacts on the world’s poor — not a demographic the GOP has shown much concern for. But make no mistake — rich or poor we all share the earth, and the catastrophic impacts of defiling it are coming for all of us.
If you’re stranded in Phoenix right now, or worried about an elderly acquaintance in California, or are without power in the Bay Area, or nervous about a wildfire taking your home, you can thank the long list of politicians who do the bidding of polluting corporations instead of their constituents and protect profit over the environment.
You can thank the President who tore up the Paris climate agreement. And you can show your displeasure by refusing to support candidates who don’t take climate change seriously, and don’t do whatever they can to keep the world inhabitable.
Anything less is global suicide.