Trump’s Attempt to Bury Devastating Climate Report Backfires

It’s a political strategy nearly as old as the Thanksgiving holiday itself: release the stories you want covered the least on the Black Friday, in the hopes that no one will cover or read them.

In this case, the famously climate-denying Trump administration decided that newsdump Friday would be the best time to release a damning report about the already horrific effects of climate change worldwide:

The federal government on Friday released a long-awaited report with an unmistakable message: The effects of climate change, including deadly wildfires, increasingly debilitating hurricanes and heat waves, are already battering the United States, and the danger of more such catastrophes is worsening.

The report’s authors, who represent numerous federal agencies, say they are more certain than ever that climate change poses a severe threat to Americans’ health and pocketbooks, as well as to the country’s infrastructure and natural resources. And while it avoids policy recommendations, the report’s sense of urgency and alarm stands in stark contrast to the lack of any apparent plan from President Trump to tackle the problems, which, according to the government he runs, are increasingly dire.

The congressionally mandated document — the first of its kind issued during the Trump administration — details how climate-fueled disasters and other types of worrisome changes are becoming more commonplace throughout the country and how much worse they could become in the absence of efforts to combat global warming.

But there’s a funny thing about releasing major news on a holiday when, by definition, there’s almost no other news: the thing you wanted to be ignored tends to be the most important thing to cover, and people have enough free time and boredom to actually read stories about it.

So it turns out that Black Friday became climate change day. Nearly every major newspaper led with an article about the report. Both CNN and MSNBC covered the climate crisis more thoroughly than they have on most any other day.

That’s partly because the report itself is shocking and terrifying: once again, it bears repeating that climate change is a severe threat to most species on planet earth and to human civilization as we know it; that we have very little time left to take the monumental action required to mitigate this threat; and that it is already having devastating consequences. Climate change isn’t a future problem. It’s a current problem.

The Trump administration is no longer an effective communications apparatus–if it ever was. Far be it from me to give them advice on how imperil most life on earth–all to further enrich a few executives–but Trump and his allies would have been far better off unveiling the climate report on a Wednesday with a number of other planned policy rollouts and distractions, and perhaps an outrageous Trump tweet or two.

As it so happens, after hours and hours of being pummeled on the severity of the climate threat, coupled with Trump’s criminally irresponsible dismissal and neglect of the issue, the administration put forward a typical distraction gambit by asking the Supreme Court to uphold their ban on transgender individuals serving in the military. Gratefully, few media outlets took the bait.

Climate change remains far and away the top policy problem facing humanity, outstripping all else. When human beings and most flora and fauna cannot live on the vast majority of our planet anymore, it hardly matters whose economic program was implemented or how resources were distributed. We will all sink or swim together. The fate of humanity depends on gathering the political will to take the actions necessary to save ourselves.

Thankfully, the Trump Administration may have done us all a small inadvertent favor yesterday through its combined cowardice and incompetence.

David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.