Las Vegas Sun

July 16, 2019

Currently: 103° — Complete forecast

Sun editorial:

Politics of climate change denial are unconvincing to Mother Nature

The Trump administration’s assault on climate science might draw cheers from some misguided people, but you can bet that the residents of the tiny town of Akiak, Alaska, aren’t among them.

Last week, The Guardian reported that the inland community of 340 people was in danger of becoming an island due to severe riverbank erosion that had eaten away about 100 feet of ground and left several houses on the brink of collapsing. It seems that amid record spring warming, the permafrost has melted and caused the ground to crumble and be swept away in the current.

This is the world we live in.

Not long after the riverbank gave way in Akiak, a photo that captured the scope of excessive ice melt in Greenland went viral. It showed sled dogs running through a huge expanse of water that in normal climate conditions would have been solid ice.

Then came yet more bracing news: Researchers said areas of permafrost in the Canadian Arctic that were expected to remain frozen until 2090 were already thawing out.

The takeaway here is that nature doesn’t give a rip if President Donald Trump and those who share his destructive views on climate change try to suppress, distort and undermine climate science. The environment is going to keep changing, and not for the better, unless greenhouse gas emissions are curtailed.

Meanwhile, with every story coming out of places like Akiak, the climate-related news from the White House becomes that much more infuriating.

• Wednesday: The administration rolls back Obama-era limitations on emissions from coal-fired power plants. In addition to reducing greenhouse gases, the restrictions would have prevented 90,000 asthma episodes and 3,600 premature deaths a year, according to an analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency.

• Friday, June 14: Trump issues an order cutting the number of government advisory committees by one-third. The committees are made up of experts who provide independent advice on a wide range of subjects, such as ozone depletion, air pollution and nuclear waste storage. “It’s just another extension of this administration’s attack on science, an attack on transparency, and an attack on anything that can get in the way of this administration doing what it wants to do without need for experts to intervene in any way,” says Gina McCarthy, who led the EPA during the Obama administration.

• Friday, June 8: It’s revealed that the White House blocked a State Department intelligence agency from submitting written testimony to a House panel warning that human-caused climate change represented a “possibly catastrophic” threat.

• Monday, May 27: The New York Times reports that in producing the next National Climate Assessment report, the Trump administration will limit and undermine the science that goes into predicting the effects of climate change. The administration will examine the impact only through 2040 instead of 2050, when the effects of current fossil fuels policies are expected to spiral significantly unless greenhouse gas emissions are significantly curtailed. In addition, the administration will not include worst-case scenarios such as crop failures, food losses and more devastating storms and droughts in the report. “What we have here is a pretty blatant attempt to politicize the science — to push the science in a direction that’s consistent with their politics,” one expert tells the Times. “It reminds me of the Soviet Union.”

Trump isn’t fiddling while Rome burns, he’s firing flamethrowers.

The good news is that Nevada and some other states are taking matters into their own hands by upping their standards for development of renewable energy sources, establishing policies promoting the use of electric vehicles, suing the administration over its appalling actions on climate issues, etc.

But amid the horrific effects of climate change — rapid-fire succession of catastrophic storms, record rainfall events, rising sea levels that are forcing coastal communities to build up seawalls, etc. — it’s imperative for the fight to curb global warming to be not only a national effort but a multinational one.

Unless voters limit Trump’s window to four years instead of eight, the stories from places like Akiak are going to start coming even faster and be more alarming. And although Trump doesn’t want people to know it, his actions could make what’s coming in 50 years something that no one will survive.