Timing is everything. Take for example the Trump administration’s decision to release the latest National Climate Assessment during last month’s Thanksgiving holiday. No shocker. The president and his team consistently dump unwelcome information at times they believe no one is paying attention.
Publication of the climate assessment is mandated by Congress. It has been released every four years since the requirement to do so was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1990. That’s right, Bush 41, whose recent passing we as a nation are still mourning. Again, timing is everything. In this instance, it’s the perfect time to pause and consider the significance of this piece of legislation.
The elder President Bush understood the disastrous consequences of climate change. According to Monica Medina, a former principal deputy undersecretary of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Bush 41 knew that global warming posed “a risk to our health, to our prosperity, and to our national security.”
President Bush’s commitment to the environment is in stark contrast to opinions expressed by the current occupant of the Oval Office. When questioned about the climate report’s validity, President Trump reacted dismissively and said, “I don’t believe it.”
Climate change deniers like President Trump and many of his party’s leadership in Congress choose to pooh-pooh the findings of the climate assessment because it is contrary to “evidence” proffered by fossil fuel industry-affiliated experts and the special interests funding their careers. Their views are not predicated on potential environmental hazards or the health concerns of ordinary Americans. They are rooted in increased profits; the public be damned.
The consequences of the administration’s recent actions and inactions relating to environmental regulation and its withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement are a far greater matter of national security than the attempts of undocumented immigrants to “invade” our southern border. They just don’t play as well with the Trump base.
Since the last climate assessment was released four years ago, states in the west and southwest have increasingly been subjected to devastating droughts. Dwindling water supplies have affected the livelihood of farmers. Uncontrollable wildfires have taken a human toll, causing loss of life, property, and natural resources.
Coastal flooding and erosion, which is attributed to a decrease in sea ice, have impacted Alaskans as well as Americans in offshore territories of the U.S., like Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Hotter temperatures are life-threatening to both elderly and young Americans.
Scientists who contributed to the National Climate Assessment note that by 2050 those higher temperatures and dramatic changes in rainfall will also reduce agricultural productivity and impact the health of livestock.
The report further notes that extreme weather events driven by global warming are “virtually certain to increasingly affect U.S. trade and economy, including import and export prices and businesses with overseas operations and supply chains.” We may expect shuttering of factories and a resultant hardship for American workers at home.
It’s quite possible that climate change will eventually have a greater negative impact on businesses large and small than the administration’s ill-conceived tariffs on imports, and its “America First” trade policies.
During the administration’s first two years, the wholesale elimination of regulations enacted by the Environmental Protection Agency and other government institutions have removed safeguards meant to keep Americans healthy and secure. The economic health of American workers - not their employers - is often cited as the motivating factor behind these changes.
To varying degrees, all administrations pander to those whose financial support helped put and keep them in office. The Trump administration is no different. Yet fixes that favor short-term corporate interests over those of ordinary Americans who voted for the president will inevitably yield economic consequences that affect the bottom-line and well-being of us all.
Global warming and the environment need not be a political hot potato. As the late President Bush told an audience thirty years ago, “Those who think we’re powerless to do anything about the greenhouse effect are forgetting about the White House effect.” In the wake of the latest National Climate Assessment, it is in everyone’s interests for the current occupant of that house to retake his temperature and reconsider his position on climate change.
Blair Bess is an award-winning journalist and columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.