RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

Boardman writes: "'I don't believe it' is not, by definition, a rational argument supported by evidence. It's a statement of faith, not susceptible of proof or rebuttal, and as such is useless to effective governance."

Floodwaters brought on by tropical storm Harvey in Houston on 28 August 2017. (photo: David Phillip/AP)
Floodwaters brought on by tropical storm Harvey in Houston on 28 August 2017. (photo: David Phillip/AP)

Climate Change Response Pits Trump Against US Government

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

01 December 18

I don’t believe it.

– Donald Trump, November 26th, referring to the 1596-page Fourth National Climate Assessment, released by the White House at 2 p.m. on Black Friday, November 23rd, the day after Thanksgiving.

don’t believe it” is not, by definition, a rational argument supported by evidence. It’s a statement of faith, not susceptible of proof or rebuttal, and as such is useless to effective governance. “I don’t believe it” is the empty opposite of the Fourth National Climate Assessment that is part of a continuing, multi-disciplinary, real-world examination of climate change that began in 1990 (more on this under-publicized report later). Produced by the 13 government agencies that comprise the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the Assessment is the latest report in a thirty-year climate watch that has seen steady, unchanging trends toward catastrophic global impact. Climate change is a dynamic process, driven by human activity that humans have done little to mitigate for a generation. Climate change is happening, it is irreversible, but there is still time to mitigate its worst effects, to save lives, to preserve habitat, to adjust economies, to sustain a somewhat civilized world.

“I don’t believe it” is Donald Trump’s response to all of this. Researchers in the Trump administration are forbidden – forbidden! – from even mentioning climate change, never mind developing strategies to cope with its varied impacts. Sorry about that, Puerto Rico. Sorry about that, Houston and North Carolina. Sorry about that, California. Sorry about that, everyone.

“I don’t believe it” has a corollary in White House practice: “I don’t want you to believe it.” The White House considered suppressing the report, but that would require overt law-breaking, since the National Climate Assessment is mandated by Congress. The White House reportedly considered editing or censoring the report, but feared that would make things worse (as it had when a Bush administration oil executive falsified an earlier climate report). So the White House went with a traditional subterfuge, releasing the Assessment when it would be least likely to get significant news coverage – at 2 p.m. on a Friday, not only a traditional black hole for bad news but super-shopper Black Friday after Thanksgiving as well. For a report that signaled the inevitably of an uninhabitable planet within decades, unless the U.S. and others make major changes of public policy, the story has received rather muted attention.

As one Trump advisor summed up the dishonest White House approach, adding a touch of conspiratorial paranoia:

We don’t care. In our view, this is made-up hysteria anyway…. Trying to stop the deep state from doing this in the first place, or trying to alter the document, and then creating a whole new narrative — it’s better to just have it come out and get it over with. But do it on a day when nobody cares, and hope it gets swept away by the next day’s news.

To reinforce distraction from news that affects every American for generations, the White House also chose to lie about it. The White House issued a statement on November 23rd that falsely claimed that “the report is largely based on the most extreme scenario.” The report included a range of scenarios. White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders repeated this lie on November 27th, falsely claiming the official U.S. government position on climate was “not based on facts.” Sanders also lied when she claimed that the National Climate Assessment process was not transparent. Sanders also made false environmental claims that are irrelevant to and a distraction from climate questions.

In a sense, it’s not news when Donald Trump and his followers double down on climate denial. These are veteran birthers, after all. But the scale of climate change is vast and daunting. The stakes in dealing with climate change are intimidatingly high: millions of lives, billions of acres, trillions of dollars. It’s enough to give the most careful, rational leader pause.

“I don’t believe it” is not an answer. It’s not a policy. It’s cowardice or worse.

At this point, the world is past the point of preventing climate change from doing serious damage. That damage is already happening. Bigger and more powerful storms, coastal and inland flooding, larger and more intense forest fires, water scarcity, lethal heat waves and more, all exacerbated by climate change, take more lives and property every year. The problem is global; political dithering is pandemic, reinforced by political corruption. We’ve known – or should have known – for at least thirty years that we have a problem we need to face. Exxon and other oil companies have known for fifty years or more that their profitability came at the cost of putting the planet at risk. Coal companies have always known that coal was unhealthy for people, if not the globe.

“I don’t believe it” is an abdication of leadership. “I don’t know” is what you say, whether you believe it or not, when your goal is to put a prohibitive tariff on solar panels, to slow the rush away from fossil fuels.

We didn’t have to get to this place, where our choices are all stark. In 1989, President George H.W. Bush initiated the U.S. Global Change Research Program. In 1990, Congress passed the Global Change Research Act, designed to develop and coordinate “a comprehensive and integrated United States research program which will assist the Nation and the world to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.” From that rational beginning of intellectual integrity, we have drifted through one feckless presidency and Congress after another, squandering thirty years of opportunity to save ourselves from ourselves.

“I don’t believe it” seems to have become the national motto, sometimes expressed as “In God We Trust,” long since replacing e pluribus unum or any other aspirational goal. The reigning cultural stupidity of the United States, its suicidal cultural stupidity, was neatly encapsulated by Utah Republican senator Mike Lee on November 25th, when he expressed the widely shared mindlessness that passes for conventional wisdom on addressing climate change:

All the proposals I’ve seen so far that would address any of these issues would devastate the U.S. economy and have little or no benefit that is demonstrable from our standpoint. And so I have yet to see a proposal that would bring this about. I think if we’re going to move away from fossil fuels, it’s got to be done through innovation. And innovation can be choked out through excessive government regulation.

He doesn’t mention regulation like a tariff on solar panels. He has no proposal of his own. He’s not even sure fossil fuels are bad (“if we’re going to move away from fossil fuels”). For the foreseeable future the Mike Lees of the world, who hold positions of power everywhere, are content to let the planet creep toward further catastrophe rather than disturb the profit centers of their patrons. He may as well as have said, “I don’t believe it.”

While it is true that climate change is a global problem that needs a global solution, it is also true that the U.S. is the single largest contributor of greenhouse gases driving the problem. And the U.S. is led by people committed to creating ever more greenhouse gases until some uncertain future date when something unspecified will change their course. In February, the U.S. Energy Department reported that there was likely to be no decrease in U.S. carbon emissions for more than 30 years. That would mean the rest of the world would have to achieve zero carbon emissions, immediately, just to maintain the already damaging status quo.

Thirty years ago, Bill McKibben published “The End of Nature,” an early warning about what was then called “the greenhouse effect.” McKibben’s recent piece in the New Yorker of November 26th is a long, angry, despairing piece about our collective path to self-destruction:

The extra heat that we trap near the planet every day is equivalent to the heat from four hundred thousand [400,000] bombs the size of the one that was dropped on Hiroshima.
As a result, in the past thirty years we’ve seen all twenty of the hottest years ever recorded. The melting of ice caps and glaciers and the rising levels of our oceans and seas, initially predicted for the end of the century, have occurred decades early. “I’ve never been at … a climate conference where people say ‘that happened slower than I thought it would,’ ” Christina Hulbe, a New Zealand climatologist, told a reporter for Grist last year…. 
All this has played out more or less as scientists warned, albeit faster. What has defied expectations is the slowness of the response. The climatologist James Hansen testified before Congress about the dangers of human-caused climate change thirty years ago. 

The cultural vacuity of American leadership is as stunning as is it self-willed. Confronted with an official U.S. government report, American leadership chooses to ignore three decades of conscientious, consistent, accumulating research that a real problem is getting steadily worse, choosing instead to ignore, deny, lie, and maintain the policy that feeds the crisis. This is beyond rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. This is maintaining full speed ahead while betting that there are no icebergs.

No matter what happens next, the failed American leadership of the past thirty years has assured that we, and the rest of the world, will go on suffering unnecessary losses for a long time into the future. Perhaps the new Democrats in Congress will force the failed party leadership to adopt a “Green New Deal” and perhaps, in time, that can make some difference, though it’s too late to make much difference in time. But that’s one of the two grim choices we face: do something to reduce carbon emissions as quickly as possible and risk the possibly severe economic consequences.

The other choice is to follow current policy and risk almost certain, severe economic consequence – as well as severe ecological consequences – as well as severe consequences to human well being, health, and life. This is the path of Trump’s climate leadership, and it is fraudulent, irresponsible, and criminal.

Criminal? We have seen the carnage caused by climate change already. We know there will be more and worse to come unless we take efforts to mitigate the consequences. Trump shows no evidence that he knows the risk or cares about it, so how is that not criminal negligence on a global scale? Lock him up.

Email This Page

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+28 # PABLO DIABLO 2018-12-01 18:56
Trump,et al know what they are facing. It's about money. It's always about money. Everything else just thickens the plot.
+6 # Kootenay Coyote 2018-12-01 21:34
'Trump,et al. know what they are facing.'

Maybe not. Remember 1789.
+2 # economagic 2018-12-02 20:22
It's ALWAYS about money, but these fools are thinking only of the short run, and assuming (falsely) that the money will save them from the catastrophes that will befall everyone else if we AND they do not act.
+12 # elizabethblock 2018-12-01 19:34
Trump does believe in climate change. He has asked the Irish government for permission to build a wall to protect his golf course from a rise in sea level. What he says he doesn't believe is that climate change is caused by human activity.
+8 # neis 2018-12-01 22:58
I will certainly sleep better tonight knowing this distinction.
+6 # ddd-rrr 2018-12-01 21:14
Thanks to William Boardman and to RSN for this very good summation
of our current position relative to this existentially important issue
of humanly-induced destructive climate change.

That the NEED IS NOW for effective grand-scale countermeasures
to ameliorate this rapidly unfolding world-wide disaster
should be evident to ALL at this point,
and NOT an issue for any
"further debate"!
+7 # economagic 2018-12-01 21:25
Mr. Boardman is right on, as usual: "Not believing" in global warming is not rational, and is in this case pure BS put forth by vandals and thieves. But there is a different train of reasoning that some people might find more convincing:

Would you say you don't "believe" that you can use your smart phone to send messages to everyone in the world via Twitter? Would you say it was a hoax? Would you say that a person who says it is NOT a hoax is crazy or lying? Why not? On what basis do you "believe" it is NOT a hoax? Do you know how twitter works? Do you know how your smart phone works? Do you know how smart phones and the internet came to exist? Do you not realize that they are the result of two centuries of the same branch of science as global warming (physics)?

You say your gut gives you better information than some people's brains. Really? Do you know what your gut is full of? Do you know how your gut works? Do you know anything at all about how a brain works?

Tell me something your gut tells you, then try to convince me why I should "believe" it. "Because my gut tells me" means nothing to me.

Why do you "believe" ANYTHING works if you have no idea HOW it works? "I just know" is not an answer, but merely a repetition of the question.

Of course the president* does not give a flying finagle whether anything is true, only whether it helps him "win," meaning get more money or more power over someone. But your right-wing uncle MIGHT care just a little bit.
+7 # Jaax88 2018-12-01 21:39
I would not believe anything he says about climate change or it causes. I would say his defective brain believes whatever helps people get and keep money whether illegal or otherwise.
+7 # DongiC 2018-12-01 22:00
Trump is more than just stupid and more than just criminal and more than just money grubbing. He and his group and his supporters in the Republican Party - like almost all of them - are evil and satanic. They work for the devil and care not a whit about the dangers facing our planet.

Imagine putting this scientific report out on Black Friday which is akin to reporting on Pearl Harbor (Dec 8, 1941) in the newspaper's society pages! It is something you would expect from the beast as described in the Apocalypse of St. John (Chapters 13 and 16). And this was done by the leader of our constitutional government. How does this promote the general welfare of our country which this same leader took an oath to provide for in view of the entire nation? In January of 2017, in Washington, DC at his inaugural.

If you don't notice the profound significance of these awesome events you are willingly blind. Plus, you are ready to pass on to all your succeeding generations a life of incredible misery and despair. How can you be so mean and so selfish?

The scientists have spoken. It is time we listened to them, buckle up our belts and do what we must to save our planet. It is sacrifice time for all of us; young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican. I am sure that in this epochal crusade the Creator will be on our side!
+10 # Allears 2018-12-02 08:50
Climate change is not like God, you can't believe or not believe in the concept. Saying you don't believe in climate change is akin to saying you don't believe in the weather. Just by the sheer, and increasingly growing, human population we affect not only climate. I so wish there was not this need to focus on only this one aspect of the changes we are inflicting and more of an ability to understand how we are affecting our planet and all the life on it by our insistence on continued population growth, which goes hand in hand with the insistence that economic security can only be the result of continued growth. It is a convenient, advantageous veil, this rabid debate over whether or not humans are affecting changes in climate PATTERNS,to cover up the far more dire effects that go beyond climate concerns.We will not entertain any discussion of our numbers and the resultant demands we exact on the biosphere. The bottom strata of insects of the food chain is disappearing, and soon this will begin to affect the food supply of all the inhabitants up the chain. And carbon output is not the chief cause-pesticide s and the manicuring of natural wild landscapes are. Our physical and psychic disconnection from the hand that feeds us, nature, is.We seem to be like horses in need of blinders to keep us from seeing any of the periphery, able only to look ahead into a tunnel like vision that can parse one one thing at a time.
-6 # BKnowswhitt 2018-12-02 21:32
What is your background in climate science?
+1 # DongiC 2018-12-04 10:04
Of course, Allears, you are right. We must limit population growth, that is Priority One. We must also limit our economic abundance and be prepared to sacrifice so our posterity can have some kind of normal or semi normal life. Or even a life at all.
+7 # draypoker 2018-12-02 09:18
Trump is, as is obvious in everything he says and does, a typical ignorant bigot, entirely unsuitable to the post his similarly defective voters have put him in.
-10 # BKnowswhitt 2018-12-02 13:57
Phoney Obama era and they owned the EPA with grants to studies favoring their 'political' science see here:
+4 # ddd-rrr 2018-12-02 16:41
It REALLY is best to check out the reputations of sources before recommending them.
It appears to me that Carlin is considerably less than a reliable/believ able source.
+5 # WBoardman 2018-12-02 18:53
The link offered by BKnowswhitt is a waste of time,
if not down right trolling.

It begins with an unsupported diatribe that includes the flatly false
assertion that the report derives from a process started in the
Obama [dog whistle] administration.

As noted in the article, the progenitor was the sainted
George H.W. Bush, and may be the last serious effort
he made to confront climate change.

BKnowswhitt misleads us
and should be ahsamed of this sham argument.
+5 # economagic 2018-12-02 20:25
Why don't you read some actual science? It's pretty interesting, and as close to truth as we can get in this life.
+6 # chrisconno 2018-12-02 19:53
How does this 'no cares for the future' posture not qualify as crimes against humanity? Why can't Exon and Trump be charged in the Hague with crimes against humanity? Knowingly ignoring the evidence and continuing to forge ahead with an all humanity be damned solution threatens all of humanity and is definitely a mother of all crimes.
-8 # BKnowswhitt 2018-12-02 21:05
As for the picture inserted to use as a 'climate changer' example .. based on Co2 which is a lie .. it was an early hurricane not enough energy to push it up the atlantic coast as water in gulf Normally hot that time of year .. and so the gulf stream no hotter to pull it north .. then no energy in weather systems moving across southern usa to push it out so it spun and picked up moisture and stayed stangnant dumping gallons on houston .. which BTW is built in a swamp below sea level .. worst case scenario .. however perfectly explainable and not a result of either Global Warming or Climate Change as the false reporters want us to believe ..
+1 # draypoker 2018-12-04 07:50
Do learn some science, and stop posting this nonsense.
0 # NAVYVET 2018-12-31 11:45
I worked as an environmentalis t for 14 years, and BKnowswhitt makes no sense whatsoever! It's not just the clumsy English. He really seems to be copying from something he knows nothing about.

A troll would be a good guess.
+1 # WBoardman 2018-12-03 15:16
BKnowswhitt seems to be trolling again,
falsely claiming that climate change scientists
blame any particular storm on climate change.

Actually they are careful to say that no particular event
can be attributed to climate change alone,
weather systems are dynamic with many moving parts.

As a climate change denier, BKnowswhitt works with
half-truths and falsehoods, without the intellectual integrity
that requires one to look at patterns as well as particulars.

You might think BKnoswhitt would get some perspective on
Houston from the fact that Houston had three 500-year floods
in three years.

Or maybe even just notice this from the article:

"As a result, in the past thirty years we’ve seen all twenty of the hottest years ever recorded. The melting of ice caps and glaciers and the rising levels of our oceans and seas, initially predicted for the end of the century, have occurred decades early."

Patterns matter, even to deniers still in denial.
+2 # economagic 2018-12-04 18:34
The problem of failing to understand the differences among belief, reason, and "fact," and between claims that could possibly be (conditionally) true and those that could not because they are contradicted by massive evidence, and what that means.
0 # NAVYVET 2018-12-31 11:48
Alas, our school boards refuse to let schools teach the Fourth R: "Reasoning".
To all: This was delayed in sending because "You just sent a comment." What's that nonsense all about? I thought comments were suppose to be a dialogue.

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.