By: Larry J. Schweiger
Pittsburgh Current Columnist
We have witnessed two presidential political conventions. One conducted virtually to avoid the spread of COVID-19, the other illegally and recklessly held on White House grounds with large gatherings and few masks. The contrast could not be starker, yet the more dramatic contrast is in their environmental policies and the direction of our democracy.
The Republican convention solidified the notion that it is all about Donald Trump and his xenophobic, racially provocative, and lawless proclivities.
Some in the media suggested that Trump has no political platform for 2020. That is not entirely accurate. Instead of formulating a timely platform as the Democratic Party did through virtual means, the Republican National Committee’s Executive Committee voted on June 10th to reconfirm the deeply flawed 2016 platform unchanged. By so doing, the recreant Republican National Committee avoided drafting a platform that would guide and restrain Trump’s erratic and unpredictable actions and random policies by tweets.
The committee members passed a one-page resolution that “enthusiastically supports President Trump and continues to reject the policy positions of the Obama-Biden Administration… (T)he Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the President’s America-first agenda…” The 2020 Republican National Convention adjourned without adopting a new platform until 2024. Since this craven action leaves in place, Trump’s 2016 so-called “America-first” plan, here are some excerpts addressing three environmental elements from 2016 and, therefore, in the 2020 Republican platform.
Trump’s Environmental Platform:
“The environment is too important to be left to radical environmentalists. They are using yesterday’s tools to control a future they do not comprehend. The environmental establishment has become a self-serving elite, stuck in the mindset of the 1970s, subordinating the public’s consensus to the goals of the Democratic Party. Their approach is based on shoddy science, scare tactics, and centralized command-and-control regulation. Over the last eight years, the Administration has triggered an avalanche of regulation that wreaks havoc across our economy and yields minimal environmental benefits.”
Here is one example of Trump’s so-called radical environmental agenda from the 3-million-member Natural Resource Defense Council. “NRDC is tackling the climate crisis at its source: pollution from fossil fuels. “We work to reduce our dependence on these dirty sources by expanding clean energy across cities, states, and nations. We win court cases that allow the federal government to limit carbon pollution from cars and power plants. We help implement practical, clean energy solutions. And we fight oil and gas projects that would pump out even more pollution.”
This agenda expressed by NRDC is anything but radical. It should be every voters’ list to protect our world from the fast-approaching calamity of climate change.
While Trump is withdrawing from the Paris Accord, Biden will lead the world to address the climate emergency and guide through the power of example by ensuring the U.S. achieves a 100% clean energy economy and net-zero emissions no later than 2050. The Biden-Harris plan promises to rally the rest of the world to meet climate change. He will establish transparent and enforceable standards that fully integrates climate change into foreign policy, national security strategies and trade, Biden will need a highly respected Secretary of State to rebuild our tarnished reputation around the world and be a credible advocate for robust worldwide carbon reductions.
The Biden-Warren environmental plan promises to build a stronger, more resilient nation creating millions of clean energy jobs while committing the U.S. to move towards the elimination of carbon pollution. At the same time, Biden will seek to establish enforcement mechanisms, including “milestone targets” no later than the end of his first term, while making historic investments in clean energy, climate research and innovation. The Biden plan incentivizes the rapid deployment of clean energy innovations across the economy, especially in communities most impacted by climate change. Vulnerable communities, disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis and pollution will be a priority.
Contrary to the dark-money advertisements running across Pennsylvania and Ohio, Biden will not ban fracking. It is not a part of his platform. While the pollution reduction targets fall short of what we need to do, the plan will build momentum towards a clean energy economy.
The Science behind the Climate Crisis:
While Trump claims the climate crisis is a hoax and his platform claims: “Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a political mechanism, not an unbiased scientific institution. Its unreliability is reflected in its intolerance toward scientists and others who dissent from its orthodoxy. We will evaluate its recommendations accordingly. We reject the agendas of both the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement, which represent only the personal commitments of their signatories; no such agreement can be binding upon the United States until it is submitted to and ratified by the Senate. We demand an immediate halt to U.S. funding for the U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change in accordance with the 1994 Foreign Relations Authorization Act…”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was created by the United Nations Environmental Program and the World Meteorological Organization in 1988 through the leadership and support of President George H.W. Bush. Contrary to the Trump platform claims, the IPCC is a trusted scientific data and modeling source about the climate crisis. The IPCC has been very cautious in its five separate reports produced since 1988 by scientific teams representing more than 80 countries. The fifth assessment report is the most comprehensive synthesis to date. It represents six years of work by more than 830 lead authors and review editors. It draws on the peer-reviewed and published works of over 1000 contributors. Another 2,000 expert reviewers provided over 140,000 comments that the authors addressed as they synthesized their conclusions from thousands of peer-reviewed studies. The synthesis is slow, thorough process, and involves a lot of consensus-based decision-making based on sound science.
IPCC has warned: “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased… Changes in many extreme weather and climate events have been observed since about 1950. It is very likely that the number of cold days and nights has decreased and the number of warm days and nights has increased on the global scale. It is likely that the frequency of heat waves has increased in large parts of Europe, Asia and Australia. There are likely more land regions where the number of heavy precipitation events has increased than where it has decreased. The frequency or intensity of heavy precipitation events has likely increased in North America and Europe…”
The IPPC’s latest report looks at how fast the planet may be approaching the very dangerous 1.5 C. threshold and suggests: “While the pace of change that would be required to limit warming to 1.5°C can be found in the past, there is no historical precedent for the scale of the necessary transitions, in particular in a socially and economically sustainable way.” According to the most recent IPCC report, doing nothing as Trump’s platform suggests, will place all life on earth in a reality with no historical precedent, as soon as 20 years from now. Impacts of climate change on human and natural systems will include “adverse outcomes for livelihoods, health and well-being, ecosystems and species, services, infrastructure, and economic, social and cultural assets.” We are facing a climate crisis calling for bold action, not climate denial and misplaced attacks on science.
Because we must aggressively abate carbon pollution now, the 2020 election will be the most consequential election since the four-way race that Abraham Lincoln won in 1860. The Party of Lincoln and Eisenhower that I once served an elected committee member is no longer a political party in the strictest traditional sense. It is a dangerous cult of Trump’s narcissistic personality that will create more social unrest and division, continued pandemic chaos, and increasing environmental calamity if Trump gets a second chance. The Trump environmental platform is an anti-science, pro-exploitation platform that will jeopardize future generations including our children. We must vote like our future depends on it because it does.