Climate Change and the Future of Mankind: Donald Trump and his Team

The last section of the book edited by me: The Balance of Nature and Human Impact, Cambridge University Press 2013, , ends as follows:

‘………. climate change is just one of the dangers facing nature and
mankind; others include over-exploitation of resources caused by population growth
and over-consumption, habitat destruction such as deforestation, pollution, and invasive
species. With regard to climate change, we conclude with a quote from an
Amazon “ description” of the important book by the American physicist and climate
expert Joseph Romm (2006), which suggests that everything is not yet lost. There is
hope if we do something now. Because of the prominent role of the USA as an
economic and scientifi c power, a leading role will have to be played by that country,
but countries such as Australia with its enormous coal and gas reserves must play their
role as well.
“ Global warming is the story of the twenty-first century. It is the most serious issue
facing the future of humankind, but American energy and environmental policy is
driving the whole world down a path toward global catastrophe. According to Joseph
Romm, we have ten years, at most, to start making sharp cuts to our greenhouse gas
emissions, or we will face disastrous consequences. The good news, he writes, is that
there is something we can do – but only if the leadership of the U.S. government acts
immediately and asserts its influence on the rest of the world.”’

(Citation from Romm, J. N. (2006). Hell and High Water: Global Warming–the Solution and the Politics–and What We Should Do. New York: William Morrow.)

President Obama had taken steps to address some of the issues related to climate change, although he was restricted in what he could do by the obstruction of the Congress. What can we expect from the team assembled by the President-elect Donald Trump? Paul McGeough, in the Sydney Morning Herald December 17-18, has given an overview of the team, yet to be confirmed by the Senate (‘All The President’s Men (and women)’: Two retired generals head Defense and Homeland Security, and a third will be National Security Advisor. All three have fairly right-wing views, in particular the third one, Michael Flynn, with respect to Iran. Secretary of State is the ‘outgoing chairman and stockholder of Exxon Mobil’, a ‘climate change sceptic’, Chief Strategist the ‘white nationalist and former chairman of inflammatory far-right propaganda platform Breithart’, compared with which even the Murdoch run Fox News is moderate; CIA Director is ‘outspoken in favour of CIA’s use of torture and against Iran nuclear deal’; Attorney General is a former state attorney general who ‘failed confirmation as a judge in 1986 due to alleged racist comments’;  Labor is a fast food chain executive, opponent of minimum wage laws and Obamacare’; Energy is a climate change sceptic; Health and Human Services is is a strong opponent of Obamacare, ‘womens’ health programs and abortion’; Education is a billionairess who is a  ‘strong advocate of charter schools and voucher funding for school choice’; Environmental Protection Agency  is a ‘climate change denier…close to fossil fuel industry’; etc.

According to McGeough, ‘the team is mostly wealthy-dominated by billionaires and megamillionaires. By one calculation, the combined wealth of Trump’s 17 picks to date, more than $9.5 billion, is greater than the combined wealth of the 43 million least wealthy households in the country…’

What can we expect? Trump has repeatedly emphasized that he would reduce corporate tax and that Obamacare would be abolished or strongly modified. He has used aggressive language against Iran and China, will send large numbers of Mexicans back and build a wall (partly now to be replaced by fences, apparently, and to be paid by Mexico), and has promised to make America strong again, also by building up its military. Concerning climate change, his and his team’s past histories suggest that all the progress made under Obama will very likely be reversed. He even went so far as to proclaim that the USA would leave the Paris climate change agreement. Some reports claim that the NSA will have to concentrate on space activities and stop monitoring activities of climate change on Earth. Some NSA climate scientists feel so threatened that they have begun to make backups of  climate data on their private computers.  NASA appears to have the largest and most important such data base of any country; without it predictions of climate change would become almost impossible. All this may sound ridiculously insane, but in Australia -for example- there also have been attempts (only partially successful) by the more extreme wing of the right-wing government to restrict climate work by the CSIRO, the Australian national research organization, which has been at the forefront of climate research in Antarctica.

What does all this mean for our future? Accumulating research data, for example those on melting of ice sheets in Greenland and the Antarctic and its effects on sea level rises, show how urgent research on the threats posed by climate change are. We must know how great and how fast the changes will be, if we want to take effective measures to guarantee the survival of mankind. One should never give up hope, but the (not yet confirmed) composition of the new government of the US does not look good, to phrase it mildly.


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