Future Fire and Fury: Trump’s Climate Instability

Fifteen years ago today, Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman introduced the Climate Stewardship Act, which would have implemented a federal cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon pollution. McCain and Lieberman were horrified by President George W. Bush’s refusal to take action on the climate crisis due to the influence of the fossil-fuel industry; that industry, of course, successfully mobilized to kill the bill in October 2003.

No one could have imagined fifteen years ago that McCain would later abandon concerns about the climate crisis. Of course, no one could have imagined fifteen years ago that the country would elect a president who, when it came to climate, made George W. Bush look like Bill McKibben.

After the Stable-Genius-in-Chief announced his drill-baby-drill proposal last week, I remarked to a friend that Trump seemingly doesn’t care about the fate of his own grandchildren; rising global temperatures may not harm the rich as much as the poor, but the wealthy cannot fully escape what former President Barack Obama once called “the destructive power of a warming planet.” We often think of climate-change denial as a desperate attempt to protect the oil, coal and natural-gas industry. Through Trump, we now see climate-change denial as nothing more than the manifestation of hedonism. To Trump, the planet is one giant toy, and climate scientists and climate activists are simply harsh parents trying to prevent him from playing with that toy.

This is why reports that Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is angling to replace Jeff Sessions as Attorney General are profoundly frightening. It’s quite likely that as Attorney General, Pruitt would cook up plans to target climate scientists and climate activists, following in the footsteps of former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who used his position to target acclaimed climate scientist Michael Mann. Cuccinelli’s crusade was thwarted by the courts, but it’s certainly not a guarantee that the judiciary would similarly stop a Pruitt witch hunt.

After severe flooding during Winter Storm Grayson last week, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh tried to talk some sense into those who hold fast to the Trump-Pruitt vision on climate:

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh said Thursday that the flooding in areas of the city from the day’s intense snowstorm underlined the potential problems the city faces from rising waters caused by climate change.

“If anyone wants to question global warming, just see where the flood zones are,” he said. Some of those zones did not flood 30 years ago, he said.

“We do have some concerns, and we’re going to stay on top of it,” he said.

“I think it reminds developers as they think about development, how do they build into that development potential protections?” he said…

“I think this is a reminder today of what could happen in a storm like this,” he said. “If this wasn’t snow and this was rain, we’d have additional flooding today.”

There will be additional severe flooding, and additional severe fires, and additional severe hurricanes thanks to the policies of Donald Trump. The 62 million Americans who voted for Mr. Bigger Button embraced, whether consciously or subconsciously, his hedonistic vision on climate, his immoral scorn for the need to protect the interests of future generations. The catastrophic choice those voters made on November 8, 2016 will be condemned by their children and grandchildren, as that choice condemned them to a fouled future.

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.