On Climate Change, No Defense Allowed


According to Reince Priebus, President-elect Donald Trump’s chief of staff, the Trump administration’s official position on climate change will be denial. If true, I’m saddened, but not shocked.

When conservatives deny climate change, I am often tempted to suggest that they check in with two groups they usually identify with: Middle American farmers, and the US military.

The relationship of farmers to climate change is tricky. Most say it is happening (when you’re raising crops, it’s hard to ignore changing temperature zones and increasing extreme weather), but then, a majority do not blame it on human activity. On top of that, studies have shown that farmers’ views on the subject depend on how much trust they have in their sources of information (generally speaking, less trustworthy sources include the federal government, mainstream media, and environmental groups, while agribusiness, farm associations and the farm press are considered more trustworthy). So the trust factor skews farmers’ beliefs on what causes climate change away, somewhat, from human activity, though all farmers do no not think in lockstep and some do put more faith in scientific evidence presented by environmental groups or the mainstream media. The important point is that most of them do agree that climate change is real.

So if Trump and his campaign staff were the ones listening to these folks, they weren’t listening very hard. Or now that he has won, Trump and his advisors who are pushing far-right cabinet appointments just don’t care. Both seem likely.

As for the Defense Department, there is nothing tricky about its position on climate change. For some time now, the Pentagon has been in the vanguard on this issue, arguing that global warming presents clear threats to US national security, and that the military needs to be planning accordingly. This is the Department of Defense’s job, to study evidence of potential future risks and take concrete steps to counteract them. And earlier this year, the department put a plan into action, issuing a directive that assigned specific duties to specific officials to prepare for climate change, covering areas like infrastructure, weapons procurement, and disaster response.

What did the Republican-led House of Representatives do in response to this directive? It passed an amendment prohibiting the department from spending any money to put its plan into effect. Not a single Democrat voted in favor of the amendment, but the Republicans outnumbered them.

For as long as I can remember, we have been told that the Republican Party is the only party that gives top priority to our national security interests. The evidence has not always supported this assertion, and many would argue that the top priority over the years has been enriching military contractors. Today, we have a Republican Congress that won’t spend money on national security for no other reason than it collides with the party’s larger priority of denying climate change. And now, they have a president on their side.

Who knows, maybe they’ll stop making their bizarre, scientifically ignorant arguments against the measurable reality of global warming, and just say “I’m with Stupid.”

Copyright 2016 Stephen Leon


Leave a Reply