Donald Trump’s reckless decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement is more than political folly endangering the Earth. It is an unabashed attack on science and on reason itself.
Among respected climate scientists, there is little to no doubt that Earth is warming and that the principal cause is human activity, mainly by burning fossil fuels. This fact has been established by leading climate scientists and endorsed by many scientific societies around the world — including the US National Academy of Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Physical Society, American Geophysical Union and American Meteorological Society.
Less certain is the exact rate of global warming and the quantitative fraction of that warming attributable to human activities, which both depend on assumptions about those activities. Scientific results almost always come with uncertainties, and climate science is no exception. But it can be stated with great certainty — as it has been, by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — that human activities are the dominant contribution.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, the evidence for climate change can be seen all around us. Oceans have warmed and their levels risen by nearly a foot since 1900. Air temperatures are higher by about a degree Fahrenheit. Glaciers in the Cascades are melting. And our seas are souring from the ocean acidification due to dissolved carbon dioxide, impairing shellfish farming along Oregon and Washington coasts.
Climate science is extremely complex, involving interactions of atmospheric science, oceanography, geology, physics, chemistry, computer science and other disciplines. If scientists are excluded from the policy-making process, and attorneys and businessmen act without their input, they will inevitably make ill-advised decisions like what happened in this case.
For a bombastic, narcissistic real-estate mogul turned politician who has no scientific understanding whatsoever — and who still lacks a presidential science adviser, months into his term — to turn his back on the global scientific community and make such an earth-shattering decision against its advice is patently ridiculous. It is a tremendous slap in the face by a crude but powerful man.
Even Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, formerly the CEO of Exxon Mobil, has advocated remaining in the Paris accords. The largest oil company in the world, it pursued its own research, verifying the reality of human-caused climate change.
But Trump seems set on listening to people like his alt-right senior adviser Stephen Bannon and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. Previously an Oklahoma state district attorney with deep oil-industry connections who has begun trying to gut climate science at EPA, Pruitt is one of the principal parties advocating abandonment of the agreement. But he brings no scientific competence at all to a government position that demands it.
Pruitt has been leading recent efforts to gut EPA’s environmental science and technology division with draconian cuts to its budget. And one of those EPA cuts would slash $28 million in federal funding for Puget Sound ecological recovery projects.
The climate pseudoscience Pruitt and Trump follow, promulgated by the Heartland Institute and other right-wing think tanks, lacks any basis in evidence. Widely ridiculed among knowledgeable climate scientists, it was cobbled together by amateurs to buttress the agenda of fossil-fuel industries supporting these groups.
Fortunately, America still has leaders who believe in and recognize the value of legitimate climate science. The governors of California, New York and Washington, along with those of at least nine other states, have declared that their states will abide by the provisions of the Paris Agreement. So have mayors of many major cities.
Put bluntly, the Trump regime (I hesitate to call it an “administration”) is completely unqualified to make such a momentous, unconscionable decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. It will inevitably weaken the resolve of many other nations that signed it and harm the entire world, perhaps catastrophically — for the chimerical and probably unattainable goal of preserving US jobs in the fossil-fuel industry.
Propping up that ailing industry is likely the unspoken reason for this terrible decision, for Trump’s connections with its leaders — including those in Moscow — are strong. And it is becoming more evident every week that this is a major part of the rationale for his curious fascination with Vladimir Putin’s nefarious regime.
Prior to the November 2016 election, many leaders on both sides of the aisle, Democrats and Republicans alike, deemed Donald Trump completely unfit to serve as US president. So said (part-time Orcas Islander) Robert Gates, one of the nation’s leading public officials who had served as Secretary of Defense under Presidents Bush and Obama. And New York Times columnist Charles Blow recently stated that Trump “is thoroughly unfit for office and is a stain on this nation and world.”
His first four months in office, culminating in this absurd, stupid decision, have proved these character evaluations beyond a reasonable doubt. For the good of the country and all humanity, this embattled president should be removed from office to let saner heads prevail. Or, like Richard Nixon before him, he can resign and withdraw from public life.