It seems that the most recent clarification that global warming is not, in fact, fake news, has finally forced Donald Trump to peddle a different story regarding the flaming fate of the planet. Once tweeted as a hoax cooked up by the Chinese government, it seems that the warning about the dangers of a world temperature a few degrees higher, supported by thousands of international scientists, may have actually convinced the President of America and his cherry-picked administration to concur it could actually be true.
As articulated in a way that only Donald Trump is capable during his interview on American news show 60 Minutes a week after the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the President lamented that perhaps indeed “something’s happening”. His inference that maybe the Chinese government probably haven’t been manufacturing the record-breaking storms that have been ravaging the East coast of America this year, comes as a shock and relief for the billions of people who have also been in doubt that the worlds largest economy probably haven’t been using up their GDP to spook Trump. But to affirm his own position, and probably that of his financiers, Trump asserted that the climate will probably change back again, and he’s unconvinced that it’s manmade. When reminded that his own scientists in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA have confirmed that human activities have created the warming conditions, he retorted that “people say” there have been worse storms than Michael, presumably sometime in the past before the Industrial Revolution, and we can’t rule out the political agenda of the scientists.
In spite of Trump’s revolving paranoia that instead of the Chinese inventing climate change, he presumes the Democrats are trying to steal “millions and millions of jobs” and cost his administration “billions and billions of dollars”, Donalds begrudging acceptance of the confirmed temperature rise is actually a significant turning point for climate scepticism.
A few decades ago, climate denial was the prevailing belief when the stories of displaced polar bears first came into the public sphere. There were tales of cyclical warming periods – that the planet naturally warms and cools over millennia – flippant references to estimates made by climate scientists who, limited by definitive records that have only been recorded since the mid-1800s, could not clarify specific time spans for the looming destruction. Combined with massive cash injections into political campaigns by the worlds most affluent industry: fossil fuels and agribusiness – those who have benefitted most from destroying the natural environment – it’s little surprise that moving towards a greener economy and shedding financially biased opinions that contribute to the damage has taken so long.
Despite all the challenges to a non-partisan governmental take on climate change, opinion has turned. For the majority of people global warming is no longer a mythical force akin to Santa Clause or whether a glass of wine a day is good or bad for you. Now, the majority of the public believe the scientists that global warming is happening, though perhaps not as many think it will personally affect them. A poll of participants in a study in France revealed that 92% believe the world’s climate is changing. In another, just 13% of UK participants don’t believe in climate change. In America, however, 86% of Democrats think the scientists, while just 42% of Republicans – Trumps America – recognise the real-time threat. The record of Trump’s impact on climate perceptions is not only affecting his party’s supporters but has allowed him to curate an administration of senators and representatives who perpetuate climate denial not only in their voters but as reflected in their policies.
First, there was the stunning record of his initial administration, swamped by a barrage of hirings and firings which left it inundated with a stunning array of climate change deniers, avoiders, and outright creators. There was Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, fired after just a little over a year in office, who had previously served as the CEO of ExxonMobil, the oil and gas monolith who knew about climate change back in the 1980s and decided to keep quiet to allow them to continue ploughing money out of the Earth’s crust. Then, there was Scott Pruitt who served as the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, despite having sued that very organisation 14 times as Oklahoma Attorney General. Though he resigned (read: pushed) in July this year, he left the agency and the administration with an environmental legacy which will wreak havoc for decades to come, from encouraging America’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement to systematically removing the ecological safeguards of Obama’s clean power plan to the clean air and water initiatives he had previously tried so hard to remove. There is also the incredible performance of Republican Florida Governor, Rick Scott, who, even while his very state is ravaged by the second major storm in a month, and acknowledging that current storm Michael is the worst that the panhandle has ever seen, continues to prevent employees of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection from using the phrases ‘climate change’, ‘global warming’, or ‘sustainability’, and are encouraged to call the predicted at least 4 foot sea level rise by 2050 simply ‘nuisance flooding’.
The attitudes and actions of Trumps administration, along with the massive shift in opinions between left and right-leaning voters when it comes to climate change demonstrates Trump’s transparent agenda to continue to fuel the idea that climate change is little more than a partisan issue. But as massive swathes of the world, including the vast majority of Americas own Southern Eastern coast, confirms, climate change isn’t concerned with political loyalty. Trump’s concession that global warming may, in fact, be true could lead to significant cultural shifts toward the right side of the truth. But optimists be warned, there’s little expectation that the words that come out of Trump’s mouth and his administration will lead to more than a few more blustered speeches and another dramatic event which will turn our attention elsewhere. For now, though, the fact that 99.9% of scientists aren’t actually part of the fake news machine will serve as a momentary respite that sometimes the truth can prevail.
Image courtesy of: Gage Skidmore/Flickr