The face of wilful ignorance

To whom do you believe I’m referring? There are no prizes for the correct answer! 

I’m referring to someone who I believe is guilty of immoral ignorance. His actions have the potential to destroy our civilization, not today or next week, but in the foreseeable future – we don’t know when, nor does he.

I am referring to Donald John Trump, President of the United States of America.

No, I’m not referring to his ignorant adventurism in international politics, or his provocation of the unstable and unpredictable Kim Jong-un, with his growing arsenal of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles with which he threatens to annihilate Seoul, American cities, now even Australian cities. In this instance, Trump’s behaviour is dangerous and stupid, and should he miscalculate, he could precipitate a tragic outcome – a nuclear holocaust.

No, I’m calling Trump wilfully ignorant because of what he is doing about global warming, which threatens all living things. What he is doing has the potential to destroy habitation on our planet. If global warming is not reversed or at least checked to limit it to no more that 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, or preferably 1.5 degrees, catastrophic outcomes will overwhelm us.

I can already hear the climate skeptics out there murmuring that this is a grossly alarmist exaggeration. Some of them even applaud Trump’s moves!

Before we look at the extent of Trump’s malevolence, let’s summarize the global warming problem, which he is content to dismiss as ‘a hoax’: (“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive”. 2012 Trump tweet.)

Writing in The Conversation on 20 April, Eelco Rohling, Professor of Ocean and Climate Change at Australian National University, described the contemporary situation in this way: “Getting climate change under control is a formidable, multifaceted challenge. Analysis by my colleagues and me suggests that staying within safe warming levels now requires removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions. (My emphasis).

Rohling continued: “
To put the problem in perspective, here are some of the key numbers.

Humans have emitted 1,540 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide gas since the industrial revolution. To put it another way, that’s equivalent to burning enough coal to form a square tower 22 metres wide that reaches from Earth to the Moon.

Half of these emissions have remained in the atmosphere, causing a rise of CO2 levels that is at least 10 times faster than any known natural increase during Earth’s long history. Most of the other half has dissolved into the ocean, causing acidification with its own detrimental impacts.

Although nature does remove CO2, for example through growth and burial of plants and algae, we emit it at least 100 times faster than it’s eliminated. We can’t rely on natural mechanisms to handle this problem: people will need to help as well…

The Paris climate agreement aims to limit global warming to well below 2°C, and ideally no higher than 1.5°C. (Others say that 1°C is what we should be really aiming for, although the world is already reaching and breaching this milestone.)

In our research, we considered 1°C a better safe warming limit because any more would take us into the territory of the Eemian period, 125,000 years ago. For natural reasons, during this era the Earth warmed by a little more than 1°C . Looking back, we can see the catastrophic consequences of global temperatures staying this high over an extended period.

Sea levels during the Eemian period were up to 10 metres higher than present levels. Today, the zone within 10m of sea level is home to 10% of the world’s population, and even a 2m sea-level rise today would displace almost 200 million people.

Clearly, pushing towards an Eemian-like climate is not safe. In fact, with 2016 having been 1.2°C warmer than the pre-industrial average, and extra warming locked in thanks to heat storage in the oceans, we may already have crossed the 1°C average threshold. To keep warming below the 1.5°C goal of the Paris agreement, it’s vital that we remove CO2 from the atmosphere as well as limiting the amount we put in. (My emphasis.)

So how much CO2 do we need to remove to prevent global disaster?
Rohling concludes:
”Right now is the time to choose: without action, we’ll be locked into the pessimistic scenario within a decade. Nothing can justify burdening future generations with this enormous cost.

For success in either scenario, we need to do more than develop new technology. We also need new international legal, policy, and ethical frameworks to deal with its widespread use, including the inevitable environmental impacts…

The costs of this are high. But countries that take the lead stand to gain technology, jobs, energy independence, better health, and international gravitas.
If any more damning evidence is needed, read what John Abramson, professor of thermal sciences, concludes in an article in the 7 April issue of The Guardian titled: New study links carbon pollution to extreme weather that reported on a study of these links: “We came as close as one can to demonstrating a direct link between climate change and a large family of extreme recent weather events. (My emphasis)

Given this scenario, which spells out global catastrophe if urgent action is not taken now, what does Trump intend to do?

Dana Nuccitelli, an environmental scientist and risk assessor, spells out Trump’s reckless plans in an article in The Guardian of 29 March.

He begins:
“Today, Donald Trump signed an executive order taking aim at America’s climate policies. On the heels of a report finding that the world needs to halve its carbon pollution every decade to avoid dangerous climate change, Trump’s order would instead increase America’s carbon pollution, to the exclusive benefit of the fossil fuel industry. (My emphasis.)

“One part of the executive order tells the EPA to review and revise (weaken) its Clean Power Plan and methane regulations… However, revising these regulations isn’t so simple…Environmental attorneys are confident “this is another deal President Trump won’t be able to close.”

“A second part of the executive order tells the EPA to ignore the government’s estimated price on carbon pollution. The Republican Party wants to lower the current estimate, but most evidence indicates the government is dramatically underestimating the cost of carbon pollution. Trump gets around this inconvenient evidence by ordering the EPA to simply deny the existence of those costs.

“A third part of the executive order ends a moratorium on new coal leases on public lands before a review is completed to determine if taxpayers are being shortchanged due to the lands being sold too cheaply. Environmental groups are set to immediately challenge this order. Regardless, lifting the moratorium would have little effect on coal production or mining jobs.

“[Newly appointed] EPA administrator Scott Pruitt [who does not believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming] undoubtedly will be happy to follow Trump’s orders. In his previous job as Oklahoma Attorney General and fossil fuel industry puppet, one of Pruitt’s 14 lawsuits against the EPA was aimed at the Clean Power Plan. However, the Clean Air Act requires the government to cut carbon pollution. Trump and Pruitt may not like it, but the law, scientific evidence, and public opinion fall squarely against them.”
Nuccitelli goes on to describe Trump’s anti-science budget:
“A few weeks ago, Donald Trump released his first proposed budget, and it’s also fiercely anti-science and anti-climate.

“Among other cuts, it would slash nearly one-third of the EPA budget, hundreds of millions of dollars from the NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] research budget, and terminate four NASA Earth science missions as part of a $102 million cut to the agency’s Earth science program.

“The budget even goes as far as to propose eliminating Energy Star – a purely voluntary program that helps companies certify energy efficient products, saving Americans money while cutting carbon pollution in the process – possibly out of pure spite for the climate.

” “Pruitt has been filling EPA staffing positions with climate deniers from Senator James “the greatest hoax” Inhofe’s office. Trump recently selected coal lobbyist and former Inhofe advisor Andrew Wheeler to be Pruitt’s EPA deputy chief.

Pruitt also hired Washington State Senator Douglas Ericksen, who actively fought the state’s proposed carbon tax, and who invited an obscure climate denier blogger named Tony Heller to testify before a Washington State Senate committee for 40 minutes. To put that in perspective, invited witnesses are normally given just a few minutes to testify. University of Washington climate scientist Sarah Myhre - an actual climate expert - had spoken to a State House committee two weeks earlier, for 8 minutes."

Nuccitelli concludes by stressing the danger of an aggressively anti-science agenda:
“As the Trump administration unleashed its assault on science and the climate, we learned that huge sections of the Great Barrier Reef are dead or dying, 30 years sooner than expected. Despite the last El Niño event ending nearly a year ago, the first two months of 2017 were the second hottest on record, behind only the El Niño-amplified 2016, pushing the world into what the WMO [World Meteorological Organization] calls “truly uncharted territory.”

“Arctic and Antarctic sea ice are at record-shattering low levels. Research is finding increasingly strong links between climate change and extreme weather.

“Americans across the political spectrum are now more worried about global warming than at any time in the past 8 years.

“Fortunately, Trump’s efforts to roll back environmental regulations will be fought in court, and his budget proposal only tells Congress what he’d like to see. Nevertheless, it’s a dangerous time for America’s leaders to be denying climate change, defunding its scientific research, and unraveling its climate policies.

“Science always wins in the end, and if we fight it [science], we will lose.

During the announcement of his anti-climate executive orders, Trump announced, “My administration is ending the war on coal.” Their wars on science and the Earth’s climate, on the other hand, are in full force. (My emphasis)
Trump’s anti-science actions have precipitated worldwide protests. On 22 April The Guardian reported: Tens of thousands of scientists are rallying around the world in a rebuke of Donald Trump’s dismissal of climate science and attempts to cut large areas of scientific research. More than 600 marches in the US, Europe, South America and Australia, began amid warnings from organisers that science is “under attack” from the Trump administration.

Similar protest marches are taking place again this weekend to mark Trump's one hundred days as President of the United States of America. What a condemnation these protests are of his attitude to science and its warnings about global warming!

Melbourne immunologist and Nobel Laureate Professor Peter Doherty called for a price on carbon, adding that there were “major threats to the global culture of science” in today’s world. In San Francisco, Professor Jonathan Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, and professor of Global Environment and Sustainability, labeled Trump’s anti-science actions as ‘oppression’.

So there it is. Trump’s immorality, Trump’s malevolence, Trumps wilful ignorance is on full display. Should he be able to carry out his anti-science agenda, should he be able to implement his destructive plans to diminish global warming to irrelevance, should he be able to convince his electorate that global warming is, as he asserts, simply a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, should he be able to halt or curtail evidence gathering about global warming, should he carry out his threat to defund countless agencies devoted to climate science, he would be condemning mankind to horrifying outcomes: many millions displaced as sea levels rise, mass starvation as water supplies wane and crops fail, obscene loss of diversity and biological resources, and all the consequent turmoil: civil disruption and wars over water, food and territory.

If you think all this is just alarmist exaggeration, think again. Look at the evidence, take note of the facts, and listen to the thousands of climate scientists who every day are pointing to the effects of global warming that are already upon us, warning us of the disaster ahead.

Trump is the most powerful person on this planet; the USA is the most powerful nation on earth. What Trump says and does has superordinate influence. If he carries out his threat to pull out of the Paris Agreement, that might render that momentous accord worthless, and all its lofty intentions null and void. What then will be the fate of our planet and all who live on it?

In the face of this immorality, is anyone prepared to counter the assertion that through his iniquitous disregard of the overwhelming evidence of destructive global warming, Donald John Trump, President of the United States of America, is the face of wilful, culpable ignorance?

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