January 2017
EXTREME POLITICS BEDEVILS SCIENTISTS AND POLICYMAKERS

The environmental community has long been accustomed to working on long-term problems. We project decades into the future and investigate centuries back in history. Some global issues and impacts are under discussion by thousands of scientists from virtually every nation on this planet. The scientific consensus is strong, productive and professional. The scientific method is still the backbone of science and fuels the free and open interchange of data and ideas. It is responsible, in large part, for the implementation of effective global partnerships that are our best hope for survival in a rapidly degrading ecosphere.

Unfortunately, environmental advocates have recently been disappointed by many of the things that our new president and his minions have done in response to global environmental problems. Two recent actions illustrate exactly why the environmental community is worried.

First is an action that occurred on Inauguration Day, January 20. According to the New York Times, in an article entitled "With Trump in Charge, Climate Change References Purged From Website," one of the new President's action was to order the "cleansing" of the White House website by removing "Within moments of the inauguration" nearly all mentions of climate change. In an action which is becoming all too familiar the new administration continued its practice of delegitimizing climate science by attempting to render it invisble and unavailable to the public. Even more disturbing was the President's order to also remove the scientific data archived on this and other government sites. This is an especially offensive action since scientists around the world have depended on these data to complete their climate studies and policies.

The second scary environmental activity exhibited by our new president is an announcement that he will withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Accord. This effort, which virtually every nation on the planet joined, is designed to: " … set out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C". The Accord also includes enforceable penalties to nations which do not meet their self-imposed quotas. It also features robust support, technical and financial, with the US generally credited as the leadership engine that made this effort possible.

President Trump has not provided any specific reason for his proposed action. Apparently it is a result of his often-expressed belief that "Global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese to hurt US manufacturers." This attitude is also evident in the President's pick for EPA Administrator - a man who has built his career out of suing the agency he many soon be managing.

The good news is that our president's commitment to these pronouncements and actions is as shallow as it is uncontaminated by serious thought and debate. Despite his initial support for for cleansing the White House website it now appears that he may change his mind. The sustained, informed and committed opposition to his revisionist policy has forced him to reneg. We now must hope the citizen participation in national politics will cause him to cancel his withdrawal from the Paris Accord.

The bad news is that these two cases are just the tip of the iceberg. Indeed, virtually every day he adds a new outrage to his resume.

WHAT WE CAN DO

At first blush it appears that the Trump administration either has, or is usurping, the power to continue its problematic governance. The good news is the fact of the matter that, in many ways, these political ideologues aren't much good at doing their new jobs. Governing is different than campaigning. It requires skill, knowledge, training and many special skills. The fact that virtually every Trump initiative has already been challenged in court belies their claim that they are proficient and knowledgable. The news reports about internal infighting indicate that the cast of characters is likely to change. All in all, it seems likely that it will take quite some time to resolve many of these legal disputes. We can help achieve this result by supporting the individuals and organizations leading the legal fight. Click here for the results of a Google search for "Environmental legal defense organizations."

It is also interesting to note that another phenomenon has been sparked by our new President. Starting the day after the Trump inauguration, and continuing to this day, America has seen daily demonstrations of Americans exercising their right to lawful assembly and free speech. Initiated with almost no planning or financial support, an organic movement of millions of Americans and others around the globe has been energized. The British website The Independent reported that the first day of the "Women's March against Donald Trump is the largest day of protests in US history,"

To learn more and connect with others involved in this phenomenon click here.


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EDITOR'S NOTE:
OUR ENVIRONMENT ONLINE was originally published in 1995. In that publication we reprinted a piece entitled
"DEBUNKING RUSH LIMBAUGH ON THE ENVIRONMENT."
It was originally published by the Environmental Defense Fund in New York.
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