Australia is being burned off the face of the earth while the Trump administration ponders yet another way to ignore global climate change in favor of profits. What is wrong with this picture?
The 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act has created obstacles to well known projects, including the Keystone XL oil pipeline. This pipeline would boost the Canadian economy and help North American energy independence. On the other hand, it would endanger pristine ecospheres and some lands held to be sacred to various First Peoples. [By “First Peoples,” I mean those whose ancestors lived on this continent before Columbus brought smallpox and measles and took slaves. “Aboriginal,” as in “before the origin,” is another useful description.]
A new rule being considered would relieve the USA government’s responsibility to consider any cumulative effect of projects like Keystone or new infrastructure projects, including highways and ports. Assessing the cumulative effect of greenhouse gasses would no longer be mandated. Nor would considering the cumulative effect on rising sea level. Nor would the cumulative effect of melting permafrost or methane hydrates * be considered.
* See blog post “Methane/CO2 Hydrates and the Venus Effect” inspired by an article in the “National Geographic Science Newsletter” of 3 January 2020.
The National Environmental Policy Act has already been weakened when in 1983, the White House of Ronald Reagan prohibited agencies from including “worst-case scenarios” in project reviews. No sense frightening people, they probably assumed.
As the government of the United States has grown in size and complexity, so have the opportunities for lobbyists, pseudo-scientists, and those whose self-interest trumps (no pun intended) the interests and future of the United States and, indeed, of Earth.
While the congress may pass a law, they often provide for its implementation through federal regulations, which may be hundreds of pages longer than the original law. It is through the manipulation of federal regulations that the Trump administration rolls back environmental regulations. They don’t need to approach congress; all they need to do is publish a proposed change to the regulations, sit back and ignore the protests and evidence that will be submitted to argue against the change, and then implement the change. This process is an underlying flaw in what we, the people, consider a democracy (which it is not) or a republic (which it was before it was hijacked by lobbyists and kleptocrats).
Trump continues to push the notion that destroying the Earth will create more jobs. Can anyone make sense of that idea? Even it were true (it is not), is the destruction of Earth through climate change, a process that has undeniable human roots, something we want to leave to our children? Is it something we, ourselves, want to face? If the positive feedback of melting permafrost, disappearing arctic ice, and warming methane hydrates * is real – and there is solid evidence it is – then what Trump is proposing is, well, nothing to worry about. Before it can be implemented, we may see the tipping of the atmosphere, the Venus effect *, and the end of all life on Earth.
* Please see “Holy Fire,” on the home page of this web site. I admit to missing Trump, but think he is even more evil than the villains in that story.
Google “New York Times Methane Hydrates” for additional references.
Registered Curmudgeon, scientist, skeptic, humanist, and writer.