Someday, They’ll Be Amazed We Didn’t Impeach Trump Over the Climate Crisis
Right now, out in sunny California, 50,o00 people have been forced to evacuate their homes. That’s just in Los Angeles, where at least four wildfires are currently ravaging the nation’s second-largest city. The largest is the Tick fire, which is burning through the canyons north of town and scything towards heavily residential areas at pace, The New York Times tells us. All schools in the San Fernando Valley have been closed due to “air-quality and safety concerns.” An entirely separate blaze, known as the Kincade fire, has burned 16,000 acres of Sonoma County. 13,000 firefighters are battling it, but it’s so far only 5 percent contained.
The 2019 fire season has actually been a let-off from previous years, particularly the one just past. Only 300 structures have been destroyed so far, compared to 23,000 in 2018. 163,000 acres have burned, compared to 1.6 million (!) last year, though the 2019 season is far from over.
In fact, as David Wallace-Wells detailed this year for New York magazine, the fire season never really ends anymore. Both scientists and firefighters have suggested dropping the “season” term. It is always fire season, and fire season is always getting worse, because it is always getting hotter and drier. About half of the 88 cities in Los Angeles county are classified as “Very High Fire-Hazard Severity Zones,” raising the prospect that in the future, the gleaming jewel of the West—our great American dream factory—will come to resemble a very particular kind of hell. After all, as Wallace-Wells tells us, some of these fires grow an acre a second. Some grow three times faster still. You cannot outrun fire traveling 60 miles per hour on the Santa Ana winds.
All this, of course, is just one spasm of our almighty planet’s sprawling reaction to the great disturbance we have caused in it. Someday, we will appreciate that if you put the 4 billion-year history of Earth on a 24-hour clock, human history is the equivalent of one second. We are ants crawling about on a particularly fancy rock in a galactic backwater, one that is determined to maintain an equilibrium we have disrupted. If need be, it will sweep us off like the ants we are, with increasingly powerful storms and incredible rain events and oppressive heatwaves and rising seas and epidemic diseases and failing crops and yes, raging wildfires. In the meantime, we will likely tear each other apart to escape the near-term consequences. But like those fires traveling on the Santa Ana winds, there will be no outrunning them in the end.
And all the while, we squabble over taxes and The National Debt and whether the president should be impeached for selling out the national interest in favor of his own when dealing with foreign countries like Ukraine. He should be, of course: he violated his oath of office and abused his power. But someday, assuming we make it that far, future generations will surely wonder why we did not remove him from the world’s most powerful office simply because he denied the existence of a fundamental threat to human civilization as we know it. The president has not just said the climate crisis is a Chinese hoax, or suggested he has some different opinion on whether it’s a problem compared to the scientists—you know, people who have devoted their lives to studying this phenomenon. He has actively rolled back our efforts in pretty much every department, to combat a crisis that will upend not just our children’s lives, but our own.
Surely, this constitutes a high crime against humanity. His apparatchiks will laugh at the suggestion now, and call it liberal delusion. But soon enough, they won’t be laughing. The people who actually know a goddamn thing about this say we have 12 years to change course in order to avoid this onrushing doom. The president wants to dig more crap out of the ground. He’d like to force New York State to do it, to abandon its commitment to future generations so some energy executives—who perhaps have some sort of relationship with the president—can make a buck.
Donald Trump, for his part, likely figures he’ll be dead and it won’t matter. This is also his view on The National Debt, but at least that’s an overblown problem. His radical solipsism permits him to dismiss small concerns like the future of the human species, not to mention all the other species, which are currently dying off at a prodigious pace in what scientists are calling the sixth mass extinction event. Meanwhile, his rich cronies probably believe they can make enough money to outrun whatever the consequences may be if they’re still around when the time comes. That will require covering an acre a second. Better get your track spikes on.