The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of scientists convened by the United Nations to advise world leaders on addressing the climate crisis, released a rather terrifying report this week. As the New York Times explained, the landmark report "paints a far more dire picture of the immediate consequences of climate change than previously thought and says that avoiding the damage requires transforming the world economy at a speed and scale that has 'no documented historic precedent.'"
The article added that the document, "written and edited by 91 scientists from 40 countries who analyzed more than 6,000 scientific studies," described "a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040."
Yesterday, during a brief Q&A with reporters, Donald Trump addressed the findings publicly for the first time.
Q: Have you read the U.N. report this week warning about climate change, requiring drastic action --TRUMP: It was given to me. It was given to me. And I want to look at who drew it. You know, which group drew it. Because I can give you reports that are fabulous, and I can give you reports that aren't so good. But I will be looking at it. Absolutely.
First, raise your hand if you seriously expect Donald Trump -- a president who can't pry himself away from his television long enough to read intelligence briefings -- "will be looking at" the lengthy IPCC document.
Second, the president's interest in knowing "who drew it" is not at all reassuring. We are, after all, talking about a report that was written and edited by 91 scientists from 40 countries, working under the auspices of the United Nations. Trump's comments yesterday suggested he's only inclined to believe scientific findings if he has reason to like the scholars behind them. Since none of the authors work for right-wing websites, it's unlikely he'll be impressed by "who drew it."
Third, there are no legitimate scientific reports that point in a "fabulous" direction on climate change. That said, if Trump sincerely believes that he "can give" us some, I'd love the White House to provide the public with the evidence the president referred to.
All of which is to say, the available evidence signals the need for immediate and unprecedented action, and this Republican administration doesn't intend to do anything.
Indeed, by some accounts, Trump and his team have adopted a rather fatalistic posture. The Washington Post recently reported:
Last month, deep in a 500-page environmental impact statement, the Trump administration made a startling assumption: On its current course, the planet will warm a disastrous seven degrees by the end of this century.A rise of seven degrees Fahrenheit, or about four degrees Celsius, compared with preindustrial levels would be catastrophic, according to scientists. Many coral reefs would dissolve in increasingly acidic oceans. Parts of Manhattan and Miami would be underwater without costly coastal defenses. Extreme heat waves would routinely smother large parts of the globe.But the administration did not offer this dire forecast, premised on the idea that the world will fail to cut its greenhouse gas emissions, as part of an argument to combat climate change. Just the opposite: The analysis assumes the planet's fate is already sealed.
In other words, Trump administration officials, in fairly obscure documents, aren't denying the existence of global warming, but rather, they're conceding that the planet is, for lack of a better word, screwed.
Rather than taking steps to avoid a catastrophe, Trump administration officials quietly argued that they just don't see the point in taking steps to reduce pollution, since modest measures will barely dent the problem, and dramatic measures would be inconvenient.
Who's feeling better about the fact that the president "will be looking at" the latest evidence documenting a crisis he doesn't believe exists?