Deniers use Black Friday to obscure scary report
Black Friday was Bleak Friday for folks with real estate investments in coastal Florida. Or anyone worried about insect-borne diseases, superstorms, floods, droughts, heat waves, wildfires, toxic algae, dying coral reefs, collapsing fisheries, seasonal allergies, invasive species, salt water seeping into the aquifer and freaked-out insurance companies heading for the hills.
But you weren’t supposed to notice.
The Trump administration cleverly picked the afternoon after Thanksgiving to release the National Climate Assessment, four years worth of peer-reviewed work compiled by 13 U.S. government agencies, including NASA, NOAA and the Department of Defense.
The findings were not happy. The 1,656-page federal report warns that warmer global temperatures will assuredly wreck our economy, our health, flood our coastal cities and make life untenable in Florida cities like Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Tampa. (So long, Apalachicola.) “The impacts of climate change are intensifying across the country and climate-related threats to Americans’ physical, social, and economic well-being are rising.”
Not quite the news that climate-changedenying political appointees in the Trump administration wish to disseminate. The assessment may represent the informed predictions of 300 government scientists, but it defies assertions by their very boss, President T as he now calls himself, that global warming is a hoax concocted by the Chinese. Or that coal burns clean. Or that climate scientists are in some kind of worldwide conspiracy to sabotage the fossil fuel industry. Or that they take money to lie – thousands of them on the take. As if the entire genre lacks the ethics and honesty so nobly demonstrated by President Trump.
Touring a community destroyed by wildfire in a drought-stricken California community on Nov. 13, Trump was able to reject the gray, ashy evidence of global warming beneath his very feet. He called the state of the environment, under his direction, “great.” Not likely that such deluded thinking would be altered by a report far heftier than his attention span.
So how does the White House deal with four years of inter-agency research that flatly contradicts the President? By issuing the unseemly assessment on Black Friday. Government agencies famously release – the proper verb is “dump” – unwelcomed documents on Friday afternoons, hoping reporters and their readers are distracted by the coming weekend. The West Wing television series featured an episode on Jan. 26, 2000 about why bureaucracies dub Friday “take out the trash day.”
The National Climate Assessment was originally scheduled to be released at the American Geophysical Union’s annual conference in Washington next week. Instead, the administration “took out the trash” on the Friday that also happened to be the busiest shopping day of the year.
It was obvious, from the summary on, why Trump’s anti-science sycophants would rather the public think about department store discounts than a fast-coming, man-made environmental catastrophe. “Observations collected around the world provide significant, clear, and compelling evidence that the global average temperature is much higher, and is rising more rapidly, than anything modern civilization has experienced, with widespread and growing impacts,” the report says. “The warming trend observed over the past century can only be explained by the effects that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, have had on the climate.”
The White House might have rewritten or outright spiked the report except Congress passed a law in 1990 — without a single dissenting vote in the Senate —requiring federal agencies to prepare an extensive report on the effects of climate change every four years.
This latest assessment cited overwhelming evidence that climate change would have a devastating effect on the economy. (Perhaps the authors figured that the dunderheads in Washington would be more bothered by the prospect of shrinking investments than melting icecaps or dying coral reefs.) South Florida was seen as particularly vulnerable to the economic damage of climate change, particularly by sea level rise. “The potential need for millions of people and billions of dollars of coastal infrastructure to be relocated in the future creates challenging legal, financial, and equity issues that have not yet been addressed,” the report warns. Billions of dollars’ worth of Florida real estate will be “below average sea level by 2100.”
South Florida will also be dealing with other unpleasantries, such as stronger hurricanes and outbreaks of mosquito-borne tropical disease like Zika and dengue fever that flourish in hothouse climates.
But even as government scientists tallied the billions in economic losses if we fail to stanch climate change, the president was having none of it. He pays federal scientists no more heed than he does CIA analysts. “I don’t believe it,” Trump said when he was asked about the report’s economic prophecies. “No, no, I don’t believe it.” Trump, instead, has converted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency into a misnomer, ordering the agency to roll back regulations restricting greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles and power plants.
To be fair, the president might have simply missed the National Climate Assessment, thick as it was. After all, it came out on Black Friday. Maybe he was busy with his Christmas shopping.