Patrick Green gives his take on US Politics, and the implications of Trump’s presidency on political debate.
So far, I’ve tried so hard not to be overly vocal on Trump on social media. I’ve been wary of becoming a Facebook preacher, but I’ve also had very little to say that hasn’t already been said: why add noise to the same sound? But little by little my distaste has turned to anger, then to worry and now, genuinely, to being upset. Upset, mainly by what is going on following his inauguration, but also by the arrogant provocations from previously silent Trump supporters which are responded to by condescension from ‘liberals’. Each side expresses hate – myself wholly included in that – and in this blind rage they ignore what is fundamentally at stake (that’s a lot, by the way).
First things first: climate change. Didn’t think I would ever end up trying to explain why climate change is a thing, and possibly the most important threat that humanity faces. I can’t see how this is something which people can have divergent opinions over. The climate can influence our very survival and existence, it is fundamental to our fragile lives on this planet in space – our uniqueness in climate to other planets is why there is life. Whether you believe this is by design from a creator or just a random occurrence matters little, what matters inherently is that we have this planet which sustains life – we all live off the same one, destroying it like we currently are confounds the meagre logic at work in my head.
The planet is a gift (apologies to the cringes which followed that), one we have an unrivalled responsibility to cherish and not spurn. I don’t want my grandchildren to see my generation as the one which had the resources to stop climate change tipping irreparably over the edge, condemning the world to irreversible and adverse effects. I would quite like them to be able to visit the places we are currently destroying through our use of fossil fuels, not to mention the places we destroy to harvest them. I won’t get too poetic or philosophical about it. Destruction of the world we have as we know it speaks loud enough for itself, or it should.
One of the main triumphs of people who support Trump, or people who simply don’t dismiss him, is the use of fact. There has been extreme controversy over ‘facts’ lately, fuelled by Kellyanne Conway’s introduction of the term ‘alternative facts’. People criticise the wave of populist conservatism as being loosely (if at all) based on reality, but the accusation can go the other way. People like myself often express opinions and ideology but cannot substantiate evidence. When someone asks me to ‘prove’ climate change and I find myself faltering, I get annoyed – not because I think I am wrong, but because I have exposed a fundamental flaw in neoliberals. We quite often accept things as truth, and assume everyone else agrees because our views are so (apparently) reasonable. Well, I’ve discovered that this cuts no ice. So, here are some facts:
- Sea Level: Globally, the oceans have risen 6.7 inches in a century. The past decade has seen this rate of sea level rising double.
- Global Temperature: 15 of the 16 warmest years ever recorded have occurred since 2001. (Seems like a coincidence, doesn’t it? Funny.)
- Sea Temperature: The top 700 metres of the oceans have warmed by 0.302 degrees since 1969. (That’s roughly the top 2300ft).
- Ice: Greenland has lost between 150-250 cubic kilometres every year between 2002-2006. Antarctica lost 152 cubic kilometres in just 3 years. Glaciers (globally) have, on average, decreased by 12 metres. (That’s 9000 cubic kilometres of water).
Read more at NASA here.
Yes, climate change on some level is a natural occurrence. However, the concentration of change in such a small space of time, uncannily coinciding with vast and rapid industrialisation globally, does suggest that humans have some influence. And when I say some, I mean a lot.
The liberal circles have been astounded by people’s capabilities to deny facts and choose to ignore experts. I can understand this denial in some circumstances. For example, in Brexit the economic implications were pretty much unanimous, yet the people voted to leave. This conscious decision to ignore economics is reasonable, if not rational. When people speak of economics on the TV screen, and mention we are recovered from the recession (or any other stock political line), most people in the UK haven’t directly experienced this recovery. For a huge proportion of Brexiteers, the economy wasn’t a factor because it’s never been on their side, so if it got worse then they wouldn’t see the difference in big enough a way to shape their decision. Brexit was an emotional and heated decision, emotion trumped (pardon the pun) economics. Economics is fundamentally influential in our world, but for many, the threat to our current mode of economics is welcome. It historically hasn’t worked for them, currently isn’t – so why should they choose to protect it?
Climate change is worlds and worlds apart from this. To deny it is irresponsibly arrogant.
So, now the point of this little diatribe. Why am I going on about climate change?
Well, Trump doesn’t ‘believe’ in it, as if it’s a God, or a myth to be disputed. He sees it as the bogie man. What is more sinister and worrying then is that he and his executive team are profiting from it not being resolved. In 2016 a third of Congress did not believe in climate change, that is 182 members altogether. They, interestingly, make roughly $73million from oil, gas and coal companies combined. Trump’s battle cry is framed as being for American workers, when really, he’s looking after the interests of those profiting from the conscious destruction of the planet.
Obama saw climate change as a national security threat. If we exacerbate climate change then eventually it will threaten not just the environment, but also the security of the people. A huge portion of people live by the ocean, they will need a place to go when oceans rise. Who will provide this land? We all rely on water, so when droughts are more common and desertification continues, water will become scarcer and scarcer, leading to more water conflict. When our finite resources dwindle, they too will be a cause for conflict.
Perhaps people are comfortable with this in the west, because they know that the seat of power is beneath our legs – we will ultimately have the strongest force behind us vying for the resources. Trump’s approval of the Dakota and Keystone pipeline prove to me the direction of his policy. He will pursue short-term benefit in profit and energy, at the cost of long-term sustainability. It is this directional shift of policy that is more alarming than the pipelines themselves (though major spills are alarmingly frequent). The global consensus seems to have shifted to an effort of cooperation in cleaning up the world, but now America is giving an abrupt about turn and isolating itself from the world. That sends a dangerous message to other countries – if one of the biggest polluters seems not to care, why should they?
Finally, as it is so recent and contentious, I feel I should at least mention the travel ban. Let’s be clear what it is and isn’t – it isn’t a ban on Muslims. However, it is a poor attempt at protectionism, and a grossly misconstrued policy. If it held genuinely protective qualities at its heart then there would be different countries banned for the 90 days: Saudi Arabia, for example. Fifteen of the nineteen hijackers on the 9/11 bombers were Saudis, which in no way endorses the ban or says that Saudis are more likely to be terrorists, but does show the superficiality of the travel ban. If Trump and his advisors wanted to protect American citizens, they should try to combat gun violence, put some long-sighted glasses on and pursue sustainable energy policy, and cooperate with the world constructively rather than seeking isolation and alienation. The ban is following up on outrageous claims Trump made during his campaign, which he now (with such high principles) is delivering. The indefinite ban on Syrian refugees is also heart-breaking – will the ban be followed up in conjunction of a cessation of bombing Syria, or would that make a little too much sense? I don’t know.
If you made it this far, thank you for reading. I kind of hate that I’ve written this, as it adds to so much sound revolving around the man. But it’s the first time in a while I’ve had anything to say, so thought I’d just get it down before it goes. Hopefully, most of you will see everything I say as blatantly obvious, but trust me not everyone does. Our first mistake is assuming everyone agrees. Our second is then labelling them stupid or bigoted.