When one day (soon, please) we look back on the Trump administration and the hubbub over leaks, it may be that the most important and far-reaching “leak” was not really a leak, was not illegal and had nothing to do with the Russia scandal, war or any rogue regime.
Government insiders reveal information for all sorts of reasons. In the case of climate scientists, the reason for calling greater public attention to a compilation of climate-science studies was to prevent suppression or heavy editing from the Trump administration’s horde of climate-change deniers. Scientists succeeded in sounding a loud, unmistakable warning that may even pierce through the fog of anti-science propaganda billowing from the Trump team.
The Associated Press reported:
“Contradicting Trump’s claims that climate change is a ‘hoax,’ the draft report representing the consensus of 13 federal agencies concludes that the evidence global warming is being driven by human activities is ‘unambiguous.’ That directly undercuts statements by Trump and his Cabinet casting doubt on whether the warming observed around the globe is being primarily driven by man-made carbon pollution.
“ ‘There are no alternative explanations, and no natural cycles are found in the observational record that can explain the observed changes in climate,’ says the report, citing thousands of peer-reviewed studies. ‘Evidence for a changing climate abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans.’ “
As scientifically literate people have been saying for years, the rational argument about climate change and its origin is over. (“Worldwide, 15 of the last 16 years have been the warmest years on record. Today, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said 2017 is on track to be the second warmest for the United States. Scientists from all over the world have documented warming in the air and water, melting glaciers, disappearing snow, shrinking sea ice and rising sea level. The report said the United States will see temperature increases of at least 2.5 degrees (1.4 degrees Celsius) over the next few decades, even with significant cuts to carbon pollution.”) According to The New York Times: “Worldwide, the draft report finds it ‘extremely likely’ that more than half the global mean temperature since 1951 can be linked to human influence.” (If it makes climate-change deniers feel better, they can say humans alone haven’t caused all the temperature increase.)
The evidence is so overwhelming that even this administration may have to throw in the towel on its conspiracy theories which insist that it’s all a Chinese “hoax.” (Whenever the Trump team uses “hoax,” understand we are dealing with an unassailable set of facts it desperately wants to deny.) For now, the White House is stalling, declining to comment until the report is finalized and officially released.
The Trump administration could do the country, the GOP and the conservative movement an enormous favor by simply acknowledging scientific reality. Not only would this move the discussion forward to a reasoned debate on policy responses, but also it would knock down a pillar of right-wing dogma. Scrapping climate-change denial would be a major step forward in diminishing the “alternative facts” industry on the right, which forces otherwise thoughtful people to adopt a know-nothing stance to show solidarity with their political brethren. In and of itself it won’t reduce political polarization or increase civil debate, but it would surely help.
One doesn’t have to be a climate-science denier to be a Republican, a conservative or even a Trump supporter. In fact, recognizing reality gives one greater credibility to engage in the relevant policy debates. President Donald Trump becoming the savior of intellectual honesty on the right on climate change wouldn’t be the weirdest thing to happen in American politics, but it’d be close. And if that does occur, it’ll be the scientists who released the report who should get the credit.
Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.