The Trump administration has a cynical new defense for its rollback of Obama-era climate policy: Dangerous climate change is now inevitable, so it’s not even worth trying to fight it.
That nihilistic bit of reasoning is buried in a 500-page government report on weakened car efficiency manufacturing requirements. The Washington Post first spotted this shift from our current presidential administration, run by the hoaxer-in-chief.
Trump’s aim here is to weaken rules on fuel consumption for cars manufactured from 2021 to 2026. The report assumes the world will warm by a disastrous 7 degrees F and uses that projection to make its regulatory rollback seem like small potatoes. The administration’s actions would, in its own words, result in “minor increases to the anticipated increases in global CO2 concentrations, temperature, precipitation, and sea level, and decreases in ocean pH that would otherwise occur. They could also, to a small degree, increase the impacts and risks of climate change.”
Essentially the Trump administration is saying: Yes, this will make things worse. But we’re screwed, so it won’t matter.
I have to say, the Trump administration is absolutely correct here: The single step of making U.S. cars more fuel efficient for this five-year period won’t stop the rise of the oceans and prevent catastrophic hurricane disasters.
But try flipping the administration’s reasoning: Making cars use less gas would do something measurable to slow climate change! Why not make a dire situation a little bit better, as opposed to a little bit worse?
Yes, incrementalism is worthless as a strategy to fight catastrophic climate change. But A LOT of incremental shifts add up to exactly the radical action we need.
While the report has been out for a month, and had been covered before, we’re just starting to glimpse what it reveals about the Trump administration’s thinking. Follow-up reporting showed that the Trump administration deliberately chose a business-as-usual scenario of 7 degrees F warming by the end of the century to make its reversal of fuel economy standards look small in comparison. With that level of warming, the world would be a truly fragile, broken hellscape where a huge chunk of the U.S. turns into uninhabitable desert.
If the Republican Party is in the process of a change of heart on climate, they’ve made it to the fifth and final stage of climate denial: It’s real. It’s bad. There’s no hope.
And that’s just not true. Every action to measurably reduce emissions makes the world a better place for dozens of generations into the future. That’s how important this moment is.
We won’t fix climate change and repair the inequality in our political and economic system with a single action. We know that. The job we have is much bigger. And there’s no point in giving up now.