In the late summer of 2017, the United States was hit by two epic hurricanes, each of which took lives and caused hundreds of billions of dollars in damage. Record-setting wildfires raged on the nation’s West coast and a devastating drought plagued much of the nation’s northern Great Plains.
Like Hurricane Sandy (which filled New York City subway tunnels with storm surge), the Indian and Pakistani heat waves of 2015, Hurricane Katrina (2005), the Alberta wildfires of last year, and numerous other recent lethal meteorological episodes, this extreme weather was driven by the ever-increasing warmth of the planet.
That warming is fueled by humanity’s excessive release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere resulting. This carbon overload results from the global profit system’s rapacious extraction and burning of fossil fuels and its reliance on animal agriculture.
People have long endured hurricanes, typhoons, tornadoes, heat waves, floods, wildfires, and droughts, but the extremity of these events has gone up because of global capitalism’s reckless Greenhouse-Gassing of the planet. Carbon accumulates in the atmosphere, trapping heat, and melting the world’s glaciers and its permafrost, which holds vast reserves of carbon-super-rich methane. As the polar ice caps retreat, less sunlight gets reflected back into space and more of it heats the planet towards a point where it becomes unsuitable for life.
We are currently at 410 carbon parts per million in the atmosphere – 60 ppm beyond what scientists identified as a hazardous point years ago. We are on pace for 500 ppm – a level that will destroy life on Earth – by 2050 if not sooner.
Extreme weather is just the tip of the (melting) iceberg. With all due respect for the mass tribulations inflicted by superstorms like Harvey and Irma, anthropogenic – really capitalogenic – global warming (CGW) will, if not slowed, destroy the human species. It will finish us off through famine, dehydration, over-heating, disease, and resource wars. It has us on the path to Hell.
An increase in the scale, frequency, and intensity of extreme weather is precisely one of the things that climate scientists have long warned about. Beyond causing great trauma for people in their paths, the new super-storms ought to be dramatic wake-up calls on the even greater dangers CGW has put on our historical doorstep.
The epic, CGW-fueled hurricanes of 2017 have hit the U.S. at a time when the White House is occupied by an arch-petro-capitalist climate change-denier whose election rang an environmental “death knell for the species” (Noam Chomsky). Trump has pulled the United States out of the moderate Paris Climate Accords. He has removed all references to climate change from federal Websites and headed the Environmental Protection Agency with a fellow petro-capitalist climate change-denier dedicated to crippling that department. Trump’s proposed budget calls for a 16% cut to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which monitors all things climate- and weather-related.
On August 15th, ten days before Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, Trump signed an executive order repealing the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard, established under Barack Obama in 2015. The standard required the federal government to factor in climate change and sea-level rise when building infrastructure.
As Texans and Floridians struggle to recover from the epic storm clearly rooted in CGW, Trump proposes to lop off $667 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). His budget slashes disaster preparedness and response programs and FEMA’s pre-disaster mitigation program. It would wipe out the agency’s entire national flood insurance analysis program.
This is eco-cidal madness on steroids – madness tinged with idiotic farce. Let history record that on Wednesday, September 6th, 2017, 14 days after Harvey made landfall in Texas and 4 days before Irma hit southern Florida, Trump went to the leading gas and oil state of North Dakota to deliver a “tax reform” (tax cut for the already obscenely rich) speech before hundreds of assembled oil workers at a major refinery in the city of Bismarck. The president made comments so senseless and stupid that one must read them twice to believe they were uttered:
“I…want to tell the people of North Dakota and the Western states who are feeling the pain of the devastating drought that we are with you 100 percent — 100 percent. (Applause.) And I’ve been in close touch, numerous times, with our Secretary of Agriculture, who is doing a fantastic job, Sonny Perdue, who has been working with your governor and your delegation to help provide relief. And we’re doing everything we can, but you have a pretty serious drought. I just said to the governor, I didn’t know you had droughts this far north. Guess what? You have them. But we’re working hard on it and it’ll disappear. It will all go away.”
Then Trump got into the real eco-cidal meat of the matter – the de-regulation of energy and the lifting of restrictions on fossil fuel extraction and burning:
“We’re getting rid of one job-killing regulation after another. We’ve lifted the restrictions on shale oil. We’ve lifted those restrictions on energy of all types. We’re putting our miners back to work. We’ve cancelled restrictions on oil and natural gas. We’ve ended the EPA intrusion into your jobs and into your lives. (Applause.) And we’re refocusing the EPA on its core mission: clean air and clean water. (Applause.). In order to protect American industry and workers, we withdrew the United States from the job-killing Paris Climate Accord. Job killer. People have no idea…And right here in North Dakota, the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is finally open for business. (Applause.) Now, what other politician, if elected President, would have done that one? They would have stayed so far away. And I did it immediately…It was the right thing to do. And that is flowing now beautifully. So it was the right thing to do. (Applause.)”
“…We opened it despite so many people that were on the other side calling and asking for this not to happen: Please, we don’t want it to happen. I said, why? They didn’t know. There was no — they just didn’t want it to happen…So I did that. I also did Keystone. You know about Keystone. (Applause.) Another other one, big one — big. First couple of days in office, those two — 48,000 jobs.”
The orange-tinted beast’s Bismarck speech would have made Orwell blush. It was right out of 1984: Big Brother says 2+2=5 and properly cowed “proles” (Orwell’s term for the exploited working masses in his dystopian novel) applaud.
Where to begin in gaging the absurdity of the president’s words in North Dakota? We’re “working hard” on the drought and “it will disappear”? Seriously?
His militantly anti-environmental EPA is working for “clean air and water.” For real? The truth is precisely the opposite.
Job-creation? Renewable energy would generate far more and better paying positions – jobs that would save livable ecology rather than destroy it (and there’s no jobs on a dead planet).
The really mind-blowing statement for me was Trump’s assertion that the people who fought the DAPL – the tens of thousands who camped and protested in Standing Rock, the pipeline resisters (I was one of them) across Iowa – “didn’t know why” they opposed the pipeline. What on Earth is someone supposed to say in response to something that insanely idiotic? Anti-DAPL activists spoke loudly and clearly about the reasons for their opposition: defense of tribal lands, water-protection, and climate sanity.
(In case you think this is a satire and that I am making Trump’s comments up, read his Bismarck speech here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/09/06/remarks-president-trump-tax-reform).
Did I say Big Brother? Maybe I should have said Big Daddy. Trump’s bizarre Bismarck address included this creepy little daddy-daughter interlude:
Donald Trump: “And, by the way, Ivanka Trump — everybody loves Ivanka. (Applause.) Come up, honey. Should I bring Ivanka up? (Applause.) Come up. Sometimes they’ll say, ‘You know, he can’t be that bad a guy. Look at Ivanka.’ (Laughter.) …Now, come on up, honey. She’s so good. She wanted to make the trip. She said, ‘Dad, can I go with you?’ She actually said, ‘Daddy, can I go with you?’ I like that, right? ‘Daddy, can I go with you?’ I said, ‘yes, you can.’ ‘Where you going?’ ‘North Dakota’. Said, ‘oh, I like North Dakota.’ Hi, honey. (Applause.) Say something, baby.
Ivanka Trump: “Hi, North Dakota. (Applause.) We love this state, so it’s always a pleasure to be back here. And you treated us very, very well in November and have continued to, so we like sharing the love back. Thank you. (Applause.)”
Donald Trump. “Thank you, honey. Thanks, baby. Come. (Applause.)”
You can’t make stuff like this up.
Where, you might ask, was the outraged Democratic Party response to Trump’s insane eco-cidal North Dakota speech? Nowhere. There was no such response. That’s because Trump’s Bismarck event came after he defied Republican congressional leadership by agreeing to a proposal by Democratic congressional leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to attach Harvey disaster relief funding to a short-term debt ceiling increase and a continuing resolution for the budget. As part of this “new bipartisanship,” Trump invited the Democratic North Dakota U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp to fly with him to Bismarck on Air Force One (she accepted). Trump called Senator Heitkamp a “good woman” after bringing her onstage outside the refinery where he told people that the DAPL’s opponents had no reasons they understood for fighting the pipeline and that he was going to make North Dakota’s drought “go away.”
Speaking on the “P”BS NewsHour three nights ago, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) was all smiles discussing debt-ceiling deal with Trump. Durbin defended Heitkamp’s flight with Trump and her appearance at an oil refinery alongside an openly idiotic and eco-cidal president pitching a regressive tax cut for the already obscenely rich Few.
Bipartisan unity in the ruination of livable ecology is not a pretty sight.
Meanwhile, Mother Nature sneered in contempt as the next big hurricane edged closer to Florida. She has been trying for years to tell us that climate change is the biggest issue of our or any time. We’d better listen while we still can.