Trump Admin Says 7 Degrees Fahrenheit of Warming Inevitable by 2100
The Trump administration acknowledged the existence of climate change in an environmental impact statement released last month, The Washington Post reported Friday, but then used that acknowledgement to draw a surprising conclusion.
The statement, written by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), said that global warming would reach a disastrous seven degrees Fahrenheit (around four degrees Celsius) by 2100. It then went on to argue that an administration proposal to rollback Obama-era fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks built after 2020 was justifiable because the greenhouse gas emissions prevented by the Obama standards would have been negligible in the grand scheme of total emissions.
"The amazing thing they're saying is human activities are going to lead to this rise of carbon dioxide that is disastrous for the environment and society. And then they're saying they're not going to do anything about it," U.S. Global Change Research Program senior scientist from 1993 to 2002 Michael MacCracken told The Washington Post.
The seven degree warming estimate is based on what scientists predict will happen if no meaningful action is taken to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. In a seven-degree warmer world, ocean acidification would devastate coral reefs, parts of Miami and New York City would be underwater and large parts of the world would regularly suffer from extreme heat waves.
To avoid that worst-case-scenario, world leaders have signed the Paris agreement to keep warming "well below" two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, but President Donald Trump announced his decision to pull the U.S. from that agreement last year.
The statement writes off the changes necessary to avoid this future as impossible, saying doing so "would require substantial increases in technology innovation and adoption compared to today's levels and would require the economy and the vehicle fleet to move away from the use of fossil fuels, which is not currently technologically feasible or economically feasible."
While Trump has opted to deny climate change in the past, famously calling it a Chinese hoax, Eillie Anzilotti wrote for Fast Company that the statement's findings are in keeping with his past business and policy decisions.
"The president, whether in his business dealings or throughout his tenure in office so far, has demonstrated a consistent strategy of prioritizing immediate profit over long-term sustainability. Permitting unmitigated burning of fossil fuels and easing up regulations on automakers will allow those businesses to continue to profit, and indeed, players in those industries are among the few condoning Trump's approach," Anzilotti wrote.
The Washington Post's finding comes in a year in which communities across the U.S. have suffered the effects of climate change first hand. The Carolinas are still recovering from flooding from Hurricane Florence, which was projected to be 50 percent wetter due to climate change. And this summer the Western U.S. fled the flames and choked on the smoke from devastating wildfires made worse by climate-change-induced drought.
"There is anger in my state about the administration's failure to protect us," Washington Governor Jay Inslee told The Washington Post. "When you taste it on your tongue, it's a reality."
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By Ilana Cohen
Four years ago, Jacob Abel cast his first presidential vote for Donald Trump. As a young conservative from Concord, North Carolina, the choice felt natural.
But this November, he plans to cast a "protest vote" for a write-in candidate or abstain from casting a ballot for president. A determining factor in his 180-degree turn? Climate change.
Fractures Among Young Climate Conservatives<p>While young conservatives have united around the urgency of climate change, they remain divided over how to bring their concerns to the ballot box. Some embrace right-wing <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-attacks-republican-convention/2020/08/24/434e5b46-e66d-11ea-970a-64c73a1c2392_story.html" target="_blank">attacks</a> painting Biden as a "tool of the left" and find his climate agenda "radical." Others can't find a way to justify voting for Trump, even if it means breaking with their party.</p><p>Patrick Mann from Orange County, California, voted for Trump in 2016. But today, he's leading Aggies for Joe at Texas A&M University and is co-founder of Texas Students for Biden. </p><p>Mann grew up watching wildfires ravage his home state, nearly forcing his family to evacuate in 2017. The GOP is failing to "meet the moment" for climate action, Mann said. He's hoping Biden will deliver on a promise to "<a href="https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/caucus/2020/01/06/joe-biden-democrat-president-iowa-caucus-restore-soul-our-nation/2806422001/" target="_blank">restore the soul of our nation</a>." </p><p>Taylor Walker from Pensacola, Florida, is also determined to make her voice heard on climate, including by casting her first-ever vote for president—but not for Biden.</p>
A False Equivalency<p>Young climate conservatives may fear climate denial and delayed climate action, but more than that, they fear the growing political momentum around the Green New Deal, the massive spending it entails and <a href="https://joebiden.com/climate-plan/" target="_blank">Biden's citing of it</a> as a "crucial framing for meeting the climate challenges we face."</p><p>Many don't want to split with their party to support a Democrat whose <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/09/03/757220130/joe-biden-on-bipartisanship-gun-control-and-regrets-over-inaction-after-a-traged" target="_blank">allegedly bipartisan intentions</a> they doubt. If stymieing what they consider a radical green agenda means re-electing a climate change denying president, so be it. </p><p>"I'm scared of climate change, but I'm also scared of the Green New Deal and what it means for America," said Ben Mutolo, a republicEN spokesperson and junior at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. </p><p>Mutolo felt encouraged by former Ohio Governor John Kasich's <a href="https://www.rollcall.com/2020/08/17/kasich-speech-to-democratic-convention-follows-years-of-building-conservative-credentials/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">appearance</a> at the Democratic National Convention, but he still struggles to see himself voting for Biden. Though the candidate paints himself as a <a href="https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-08-12/harris-biden-different-generation-similar-political-instinct" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">centrist,</a> Mutolo believes he's "cozying up to the ultra-progressive left." </p><p>Mutolo, who wants to see market-based climate solutions like a carbon tax, feels torn between a candidate whose climate plan relies on taking an "<a href="https://joebiden.com/environmental-justice-plan/#" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">All-of-Government approach</a>," and one with no efforts to reign in global warming at all. <span></span></p><p>Leiserowitz said he appreciated how a conservative might feel Biden's climate plan "doesn't jive with their limited government, free-market approach."</p><p>But he sees a strong distinction between voting for a presidential candidate with a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/14/us/politics/biden-climate-plan.html" target="_blank">$2 trillion climate plan</a> that includes large renewable energy investments, which have <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/politics-global-warming-april-2020/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bipartisan support</a>, and a candidate trying "to take the country in the opposite direction, towards more fossil fuels."</p>
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