The Trump administration is acknowledging that humanity is on track to increase average global warming by nearly 3.9°C—7.0°F—by the end of this century, and using that calculation to justify its freeze on fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks.
An increase of the magnitude foreseen in a 500-page environmental impact statement published last month “would be catastrophic, according to scientists. Many coral reefs would dissolve in increasingly acidic oceans,” the Washington Post notes. Through U.S. eyes, “parts of Manhattan and Miami would be underwater without costly coastal defences. Extreme heat waves would routinely smother large parts of the globe.”
Yet the Trump team “did not offer this dire forecast, premised on the idea that the world will fail to cut its greenhouse gas emissions, as part of an argument to combat climate change. Just the opposite: The analysis assumes the planet’s fate is already sealed.”
The statement was issued by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the same agency that “indefensibly” claimed the fuel economy rollback would somehow boost highway safety.
“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,” said Michael MacCracken, a former senior scientist at the U.S. Global Change Research Program. “And then they’re saying they’re not going to do anything about it.”
The report says the deep emissions cuts required to avert runaway climate change “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.” (In the real world, researchers and analysts know better.)
In The Guardian, 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben points to the NHTSA document as one of two “disastrous, linked policies” the Trump administration snuck out into public view while the country was transfixed by last week’s Brett Kavanagh sexual assault hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Were the world to actually warm that much [as envisioned by NHTSA], it would be a literal hell, unable to maintain civilizations as we have known them,” he writes. “But that’s now our policy, and it apparently rules out any of the actions that might, in fact, limit that warming. You might as well argue that because you’re going to die eventually, there’s no reason not to smoke a carton of cigarettes a day.”
And then, “reporters also discovered that the administration has set up what can only be described as a concentration camp near the Mexican border for detained migrant children, spiriting them under cover of darkness from the foster homes and small shelters across the nation where they had been staying,” McKibben continues. “Not an extermination camp—these aren’t Nazis—but a camp that literally concentrates this ‘problem’ in one place: a tent city in the middle of the desert. Schooling is not available there, as it was in the shelters they came from; instead the kids are given ‘workbooks that they have no obligation to complete. Access to legal services is limited.’”
The link to climate change—apart from the searing heat and drought in the desert near Tornillo, Texas—is that U.S.-bound migrants from Central America and Mexico are often climate refugees. “Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras first saw an outbreak of coffee rust linked to higher nighttime temperatures; the El Niño that began in 2015 led to years of unprecedented drought. Deep new droughts this summer wiped out more harvests,” he writes.
And “this will, of course, get steadily worse in the years ahead—every climate forecast shows deserts spreading and water evaporating across the region. And of course, more migration will follow, in every corner of the world. The World Bank predicts we may see 140 million climate migrants before long, and given the chaos that even a million people fleeing the (partially drought-fueled) crisis in Syria created, we’d better come to grips.”