“People say, if all you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail. We should be so lucky. President Trump has a hammer, but all he’ll use it for is to smash things that others have built, as the world looks on in wonder and in fear. The latest, most troubling example is his decision to obliterate the Paris climate accord: After nearly 200 years of scientific inquiry and over 20 years of patient diplomacy that united every nation save Syria and Nicaragua, we had this afternoon’s big game-show Rose Garden reveal: Count us out,” said Bill McKibben in the New York Times.
“It’s a stupid and reckless decision — our nation’s dumbest act since launching the war in Iraq. But it’s not stupid and reckless in the normal way. Instead, it amounts to a thorough repudiation of two of the civilizing forces on our planet: diplomacy and science. It undercuts our civilization’s chances of surviving global warming, but it also undercuts our civilization itself, since that civilization rests in large measure on those two forces.
“Science first. Since the early 1800s we’ve been slowly but surely figuring out the mystery of how our climate operates — why our planet is warmer than it should be, given its distance from the sun. From Fourier to Foote and Tyndall, from Arrhenius to Revelle and Suess and Keeling, researchers have worked out the role that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases play in regulating temperature. By the 1980s, as supercomputers let us model the climate with ever greater power, we came to understand our possible fate. Those big brains, just in time, gave us the warning we required.
“And now, in this millennium, we’ve watched the warning start to play out. We’ve seen 2014 set a new global temperature record, which was smashed in 2015 and smashed again in 2016. We’ve watched Arctic sea ice vanish at a record pace and measured the early disintegration of Antarctica’s great ice sheets. We’ve been able to record alarming increases in drought and flood and wildfire, and we’ve been able to link them directly to the greenhouse gases we’ve poured into the atmosphere.
This is the largest-scale example in the planet’s history of the scientific method in operation, the continuing dialectic between hypothesis and skepticism that arrived eventually at a strong consensus about the most critical aspects of our planet’s maintenance. Rational people the world around understand. As Bloomberg Businessweek blazoned across its cover the week after Hurricane Sandy smashed into Wall Street, “It’s Global Warming, Stupid.”
“But now President Trump (and 22 Republican senators who wrote a letter asking him to take the step) is betting that all of that is wrong. Mr. Trump famously called global warming a hoax during the campaign, and with this decision he’s wagering that he was actually right — he’s calling his own bluff. No line of argument in the physical world supports his claim, and no credible authority backs him, not here and not abroad. It’s telling that he simultaneously wants to cut the funding for the satellites and ocean buoys that monitor our degrading climate. Every piece of data they collect makes clear his foolishness. He’s simply insisting that physics isn’t real.
“But it’s not just science that he’s blowing up. The Paris accord was a high achievement of the diplomatic art, a process much messier than science, and inevitably involving compromise and unseemly concession. Still, after decades of work, the world’s negotiators managed to bring along virtually every nation: the Saudis and the low-lying Marshall Islanders, the Chinese and the Indians. One hundred and ninety-five nations negotiated the Paris accord, including the United States.”
Bill McKibben is a founder of 350.org and teaches environmental studies at Middlebury College.
The rest of the article is here.