Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A Presidential Election Fought and Won on Climate Change?

What if, by the time Americans go to elect their next president in November, 2020, they have two more summers like this or worse under their belts?

Sooner than later, probably sooner, climate change is going to move near the top of the list on voters' minds. That's because climate change is becoming increasingly dangerous, more disruptive and, ultimately, way more costly. The New York Times' Tom Friedman thinks it could swing the vote in 2020 and that wouldn't be a good thing for Donald J. Trump.

What if all the extreme weather this year — linked to climate change — gets even worse and more costly? What if the big 2020 issue is not left-right — but hot-cold or wet-dry? What if the big 2020 issue is not “Who lost Russia?” or “Who lost North Korea?” but “Who lost planet Earth?” 
We’re talking about the natural world, so one has to be cautious. But if you look at all the destructive extreme weather buffeting the world this summer alone, it’s as if Mother Nature were saying to us: “Oh, you didn’t notice me tapping on your shoulder these past few years? O.K. Well, how about a little fire, Scarecrow? How about this: 
“How about I bake Europe, set the biggest wildfire California has ever seen and more active wildfires — 460 in one day — than British Columbia has ever seen, and also start the worst forest fires in decades in Sweden, even extending north of the Arctic Circle where temperatures this month reached 86 degrees. Meanwhile, I’ll subject Japan to the heaviest rainfall it’s ever recorded, and then a couple weeks later the highest temperature it’s ever recorded — 106 degrees in Kumagaya, northwest of Tokyo. And for a punctuation mark, I’ll break the heat record in Death Valley, reaching 127 degrees, and burn the worst drought in living memory into Eastern Australia, where the BBC last week quoted a dairy farmer as saying, “It’s gotten to the point where it’s cheaper to shoot your cows than it is to feed them.”
Friedman has a warning for presidential hopefuls but it holds true for what passes for political leadership everywhere, Canada included.
Mother Nature is done letting us pretend that we don’t know and can’t connect the dots — and that could create some very interesting politics.
...[Trump] doesn’t believe the climate science that NASA is telling him is true. He is trying to bring back coal precisely when wind, solar and efficiency are becoming cheaper, cleaner, healthier alternatives — precisely when four of the five biggest wind states are red states and precisely when China has committed itself to owning the clean power and electric car markets of the future! He’s trying to force the U.S. auto industry to bring back gas guzzlers when the last time we did that — from the 1980s to the 2000s — Japan and Korea bankrupted Detroit and we enriched petro-dictators from Venezuela to Russia to the Arab world to Iran. 
Trump is the president who’s throwing away our umbrella right before the storm.
... Clean power, clean cars, clean manufacturing and efficient buildings make everything we want to achieve in our society easier. They can lower our health care costs, cut heating bills for the poor, drive 21st-century innovation, foster decent jobs, mitigate climate change, create more competitive export industries, weaken petro-dictators — and enhance U.S. national security and moral leadership. 
Let Trump fight that idea. If Mother Nature keeps on this destructive track into 2020, well, Trump’s favorite mantra about strong women, “Lock her up,” will look awfully silly.


Lorne said...

I don't want too sound pessimistic, Mound, but I don't think anything will change the course we are on, no matter how bad things get. Government no longer represents the people, only the powerful behind-the-scenes interests. Disaster capitalism will thrive until the end.

Jay Farquharson said...

Really Mound? The Mustache of Understanding?

Toby said...

This leaves the question, will the opposition Democrats push the issue or keep pretending? In Canada I don't see the Conservatives or NDP getting real yet.

Owen Gray said...

You'd think we'd get the message, Mound. But we're slow learners.

Trailblazer said...

With more and more wealth and hence influence in fewer hands it will be difficult to control the conversation.
Think, Fox News, Sinclair,Sky TV,post Media.
It would seem that many of the larger media groups are also anti science.
Perhaps a natural calamity or two within a short period of time will shake the shit out of those so complacent of our pressing situation.


The Mound of Sound said...

I expect it will take a seismic event to jar people out of their stupor, Lorne. The report that we could be in for at least four more years of the extreme summers we've had this year could be that spark.

If the projection is accurate what will that mean for the West? Will there be some cumulative effect from year after year of these extreme conditions? We will certainly see a spike in ocean temperatures, the main factor that drives hurricane strength.

It's always been clear that the denialists were living on borrowed time. Eventually worsening climate change impacts would overtake them. We must be getting close to that point. Remember the Trump base tends to be southern and "heartland" voters, the areas that stand to be especially hard hit. If enough of them defect, what ensues? I don't have a clue.

The Mound of Sound said...

Jay, you may have noticed how rarely I cite Friedman. I did this time because I think he might have a valid point.

The Mound of Sound said...

Owen, we will get the message, sooner or later. That's bound to happen. The difference may be in whether we're told it's still operable or inoperable.

I still have to remind myself that, while we now cannot avert some pretty nasty consequences befalling our kids and grandkids, there is no end of behaviours that we must stop pursuing that will otherwise make their fate much worse.

The Mound of Sound said...

TB, even the corporate media cartel is going to have an increasingly difficult time confounding this issue for their readers/viewers much longer.

I did notice that Lorne Gunter is still at it. He wrote an op-ed a few days ago to the effect that "nothing to see here, folks." Summer, he wrote, is always hot. The climate has always been variable. The audience for that pap is dwindling and dinosaurs like Grunter are headed for editorial extinction.

BJ Bjornson said...

“The audience for that pap is dwindling”

How I wish that were true, but I would want some actual numbers to back that assertion up. Denial of climate change has become part and parcel of many conservatives political identity, a signifier of who they are in opposition to the “libtards” and crazy environmental tree-hugging weirdos. Changing their opinion is no longer a case of accepting new data, it means changing who they identify as. It means admitting that the opponents you’ve been taught to hate and ridicule are actually right and you’ve been a fool who’s been conned. That’s a hard row to hoe. Part of why it’s such a dangerous thing to make scientific questions into political issues.

I mean, look at those folks in California whose houses were torched in the fires but still refuse to acknowledge that climate change may be a factor. Fires have always happened, after all. Who can say these are caused by climate change? And it’s even true. Climate change doesn’t cause fires, it may make them more likely or more devastating, but then so does the decades of poor forest management that didn’t allow natural burns to thin out the growth properly. How do you apportion the blame?

Summers are always hot, and winters are still cold. Do you really notice a degree or two of difference when most of your days are spent inside anyways? Natural variation easily swamps the actual change unless you look at the long-term trends. Easy enough to ignore or attribute to other factors if you’re motivated to do so. I am not in the least optimistic we will get any kind of real action on the problem in time.

Trailblazer said...

The media makes more money selling carbon based products than it does asking for a lower carbon footprint.

And yes the Californians reject AGW as their homes go up in smoke.
To accept any responsibility would mean degrading their lifestyle and accepting some responsibility.

Being responsible is 'so' out of fashion theses days!!