Forty years ago today, in an article Donald Trump and his supporters apparently never bothered to read, the New York Times reported:
To avoid accumulation in the air of sufficient carbon dioxide to cause major climate changes, it may ultimately be necessary to restrict the burning of coal and other fossil fuels, according to Dr. William D. Nordhaus of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers.
This would limit the dependence on coal that, under present policy, is to replace rapid expansion of nuclear energy.
Dr. Nordhaus, who is on leave from his post as professor of economics at Yale University, told this week’s spring meeting of the American Geophysical Union in Washington that by early in the next century, the burning of coal, oil and as might have to be curtailed by taxation or rationing. He said he was speaking as an individual and not presenting a Government policy. He has been investigating the climatic and economic implications of carbon dioxide accumulation, having also worked on the problem at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis near Vienna.
He cited estimates that if the trend toward heavy use of fossil fuels continued, by early in the next century the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will have doubled. This, it has been proposed, could make the worldwide climate warmer than at any time in the last 100,000 years. Dr. Nordhaus’s argument was based in part on calculations by Dr. Wallace S. Broecker of Columbia University’s Lamont‐Doherty Geological Observatory, who also presented a report. Each ton of coal or other fossil fuel burned, he said, produces three tons of carbon dioxide.
For all intents and purposes, it was those who voted for Trump who abandoned the Paris climate agreement. Trump is merely the tool they used to say “Screw you!” to science, facts, reality, reason and the health and safety of their own children and grandchildren. Any Republican who won the 2016 GOP primary and the presidency–Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, John Kasich–would have pulled out of Paris too, at the behest of the base.
With all the chatter about the alleged need for the Democratic Party to abandon so-called “identity politics,” perhaps we should examine the role “identity politics” may have played in the Trump electorate’s decision to reject efforts to reduce carbon emissions. It has long been recognized that climate change will have a disproportionate impact on communities of color; just recall the images from post-Katrina New Orleans a dozen years ago for proof. (The frightening thing is, 2017 is expected to be an aggressive hurricane season–and considering the incompetence of the Trump administration, if another Katrina-style storm hits this country, Trump’s response will likely be so botched that former FEMA director Michael Brown will have indeed done a heck of a job by comparison.)
One can’t help wondering if those who voted for Trump had a different reaction to those images from post-Katrina New Orleans than the rest of us. Those of a compassionate bent saw fellow citizens abandoned and left to die by a heartless government; those of a Trumpist bent presumably saw social undesirables whose time was up. One can envision such voters sarcastically laughing when they hear someone observing that climate change will disproportionately impact communities of color.
It’s hard to see how Democrats will benefit from the Paris pullout when the party can’t seem to decide between appealing to those who are concerned about this issue and trying to woo those who have already made it clear, by their choice in the 2016 presidential election, that climate change is literally the last thing on their minds.
Here’s the thing: a political party can’t please everybody. The Democratic Party cannot simultaneously claim to stand for strong action on climate change, which will disproportionately impact key members of the party’s base, and chase after the votes of those who don’t care about this issue. Attempting to please both voters focused on the climate crisis and those who don’t give a damn could well damn the Democrats. Which path will the party choose?