The Trump administration made a startling admission that it expects the planet to warm by a calamitous seven degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century – but rather than use the data for a call to action on global warming, the administration used the science to push for more environmental deregulation under the dubious claim that any action would be futile.
The Washington Post reports that the Trump administration, in a 500-page environmental impact statement issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), predicted the planet's temperature would rise by four degrees Celsius by 2100.
Scientists predict such a rise would be “catastrophic,” The Post reported, adding that “many coral reefs would dissolve in increasingly acidic oceans” and “parts of Manhattan and Miami would be underwater without costly coastal defenses. Extreme heat waves would routinely smother large parts of the globe.”
But instead of using the data to rethink its decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement or improve fuel-efficiency standards, the administration is using the data to argue that Earth's fate is already sealed.
The statement was drafted to justify Trump's decision to freeze Obama-era fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles built after 2020. The administration is arguing that even though its proposal would increase greenhouse gas emissions, it would not matter much because it's just one small part of a much larger problem.
“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,” former U.S. Global Change Research Program senior scientist Michael MacCracken told The Post.
The statement says the Obama-era fuel-efficiency rule is unnecessary because the rest of the world would need to make drastic cuts to emissions, which “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.”
"I think the climate change is just a very, very expensive form of tax," he said in a 2016 interview with Fox News.
Along with deciding to pull out of the Paris accord, the White House has taken aim at key Obama-era regulations intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Trump administration is currently pushing to revive aging coal plants, allow energy companies to release more methane into the atmosphere, and kill new regulations on air conditioners and refrigerators.
The Washington Post reports that the proposal to freeze fuel-efficiency standards would put “8 billion additional tons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere this century, more than a year’s worth of total U.S. emissions, according to the government’s own analysis.”
MIT Sloan School of Management professor John Sterman called the no-action call as “textbook example of how to lie with statistics.”
“First, the administration proposes vehicle efficiency policies that would do almost nothing [to fight climate change],” he explained to The Post. “Then [the administration] makes their impact seem even smaller by comparing their proposals to what would happen if the entire world does nothing.”
The nihilistic outlook may help the administration advance some haphazard deregulatory policy but, as NY Magazine's Eric Levitz points out, “the last time the Earth was as warm as the White House expects it to be in 2100, its oceans were hundreds of feet higher.”
The environmental impact statement itself predicts more frequent droughts and floods, as well as severe storms, heat waves, and sea level increases. The Trump administration predicts oceans will rise by nearly three feet if the world does not do enough to combat climate change.
Federal scientists in two articles published in the journal Science warned that the planet as we know it will be permanently transformed “without major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”
“With this administration, it’s almost as if this science is happening in another galaxy,” Rachel Cleetus, the policy director for the Union of Concerned Scientists’ climate and energy program, told The Post. “That feedback isn’t informing the policy.”
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, lashed out at the Trump administration's “morally reprehensible” actions on the climate during a meeting with Cabinet officials earlier this year.
“There is anger in my state about the administration’s failure to protect us,” he later told The Post. “When you taste it on your tongue, it’s a reality.”
Rolling Stone reporter Matt Taibbi described Trump's policies as “apocalypse politics.”