A Worsening Political Climate

Sometimes, you just have to appreciate the small things.

Ten years ago Monday, George W. Bush–you know, the last Republican to slide into the Oval Office without winning the popular vote–delivered his second-to-last State of the Union Address, and for the first time in a Bush SOTU speech, he acknowledged the reality of a problem that most of his party regarded as a left-wing hoax:

It’s in our vital interest to diversify America’s energy supply, and the way forward is through technology. We must continue changing the way America generates electric power by even greater use of clean-coal technology; solar and wind energy; and clean, safe nuclear power. We need to press on with battery research for plug-in and hybrid vehicles and expand the use of clean-diesel vehicles and biodiesel fuel…

Tonight, I ask Congress to join me in pursuing a great goal: Let us build on the work we’ve done and reduce gasoline usage in the United States by 20 percent in the next 10 years.

When we do that, we will have cut our total imports by the equivalent of three-quarters of all the oil we now import from the Middle East. To reach this goal, we must increase the supply of alternative fuels, by setting a mandatory fuels standard to require 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels in 2017. And that is nearly five times the current target.

At the same time, we need to reform and modernize fuel economy standards for cars the way we did for light trucks and conserve up to 8.5 billion more gallons of gasoline by 2017.

Achieving these ambitious goals will dramatically reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but it’s not going to eliminate it. And so, as we continue to diversify our fuel supply, we must step up domestic oil production in environmentally sensitive ways. And to further protect America against severe disruptions to our oil supply, I ask Congress to double the current capacity of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. America’s on the verge of technological breakthroughs that will enable us to live our lives less dependent on oil. And these technologies will help us become better stewards of the environment, and they will help us to confront the serious challenge of global climate change.

Bush was a severely flawed man on climate, to say the least, but one thing’s for sure: we will never hear the words “the serious challenge of global climate change” fall out of Donald Trump’s mouth.

It’s a testament to Trump’s amorality regarding our atmosphere that he does not think, for one moment, about the world his son Barron will inherit. All the cash in the world won’t protect his child–and all of our children and grandchildren–from the fierce floods and savage storms that Trump’s dirty-energy policies will condemn us to. If a man will not care about his own flesh and blood, why would he care about yours?

Remember when climate scientist James Hansen declared that fossil-fuel industry executives (such as former ExxonMobil CEO and future Secretary of State Rex Tillerson) should be charged with “high crimes against humanity and nature” for blocking action to reduce carbon pollution? Under Trump, those who should have faced such charges will instead sentence future generations to their demise. Those who voted for Trump obviously don’t care; presumably, they think Jesus will come back before the worst happens. (And deniers call global warming a religion?)

Earlier this month, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)–a man who will surely be in the crosshairs of the climate deniers if and when he runs for re-election next year–suggested that the fossil-fuel industry has successfully intimidated Republicans on Capitol Hill who know damn well that human-caused climate change is an existential threat into keeping their lips sealed. Of course, Big Oil isn’t the only thing that scares pro-climate-action Republicans to death: they’re also nervous about anti-science Republican voters punishing them in primaries for daring to agree with Al Gore, Barack Obama and Bill McKibben on any issue (remember what happened to South Carolina Republican Rep. Bob Inglis seven years ago). The inconvenient truth is that when it comes to climate change, the overwhelming majority of the folks who voted for Trump are as scornful of science as he is–and the damage their scorn will cause will be horrifying in its scope.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.