The temperature in Fairbanks, Alaska, hit 90 degrees this week, an all-time record. Sea ice levels have shrunk to historic lows in Antarctica, Greenland, and elsewhere. Land-based glaciers around the globe have shrunk to their smallest size in known history and continue to shrink. The Mississippi River is still in near-flood stage along much of its length — in July. Oh, and June was the hottest month ever recorded on Planet Earth.
In Washington, D.C., Monday, the White House basement was flooded due to an unprecedented four-inch deluge in an hour. Upstairs, President Trump gave a speech on his administration's "environmental leadership." (In other news, Jeffrey Epstein gave a speech lauding his teen-mentoring program.)
Trump, as has been his style lately, rambled for an hour, with members of his cabinet standing awkwardly behind their Fearless Leader. Trump touted his administration's success at promoting "crystal clean water" and the "cleanest air" and claimed that under his leadership, America had become the world's leader in protecting the environment.
One scientist called the speech Trump's "1984 moment." Other environmentalists quickly debunked Trump's claims. The man has balls of brass, no doubt, but he was lying through his dentures. (If you haven't seen the part where Trump rambled on about how we need to "sweep the forests" and how nobody had heard the term "forest management" before he came up with it, well, it's world-class bloviation.) If nothing else, Trump's speech was a perfect example of George Orwell's 1984 dictum: "Ignorance is Strength."
The truth is that this administration has removed and repealed key environmental regulations at an astounding pace, replacing them with industry-friendly "guidelines" designed to subvert the public's interest. In just two years, this administration has weakened air pollution regulations to allow coal plants to significantly increase carbon dioxide emissions; weakened or repealed most vehicle tailpipe exhaust regulations; opened up millions of acres of public land to coal mining leases and oil and gas drilling, including the largest rollback of federal land protection in the country's history; repealed and eliminated most clean-water regulations for streams and wetlands; and has proposed opening up the entire U.S. coastline to oil and gas drilling.
Trump is green, all right — green like money. In his fanciful speech on the environment, Trump neglected to mention the elephant in the room: climate change. That's because it still doesn't exist in Trump-world. All this, er, change that's happening to our, uh, climate isn't, well, climate change. It's just weather. Nothing we can do about it.
Last month, White House officials prohibited the state department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research from submitting written testimony to the House Intelligence Committee that warned that human-caused climate change could be "possibly catastrophic." The report also warned that climate change could undermine the country's national security.
That information was suppressed, not because it isn't true, but because it doesn't line up with the administration's real priority: clearing the way for industry to avoid any pesky regulations designed to protect the public's health and safety.
The planet's ice is melting precipitously, raising sea levels another inch every eight years or so and warming the oceans. The effects are many, but one of the most sobering is the fact that coral reefs around the world are disappearing, being bleached out by warming seas. One-fourth of the planet's sea life lives in and around reefs. They are the base link in the oceanic food chain. Without reefs, thousands of fish species we depend on for food could disappear. And decreasing numbers of fish will have an impact all the way up the food chain to birds, mammals, and humans.
It's easy to read in the Flyer about the impact of climate change while, say, chomping on a burger at Huey's, and just move on. Somehow, even though we take in these scary scenarios, they still seem part of the future, something that's happening elsewhere. But climate change is affecting us all. And our children and grandchildren will be left to deal with the mess we've made.
Every four years, a Congress-mandated report called the National Climate Assessment is released. It breaks down climate-change impacts at the state and city level. According to the latest report (released by the Trump administration on the day after Thanksgiving last year), Tennessee is going to feel some serious impact down the road, including higher levels of heat and humidity, more severe weather patterns (drought, flood, and tornado risk), and increased risks of mosquito-borne disease. At the current rate of change, Memphis' climate will resemble that of Laredo, Texas, by 2050. That's 30 years from now.