Sierra Canyon High School

Opinion: Science must trump plutocracy

President Donald Trump’s climate change denialism, rather like climate change itself, has hardly been hidden, but also hasn’t been at the forefront. While less dramatic than his blatant callousness to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, it’s no less revealing of who he is: a plutocrat who acts  for the big business elite he always represented, the one place his loyalties really lie.

NASA’s official website says that “97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.” The most important contributor is human emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs), especially carbon dioxide; which are primarily released through burning of fossil fuels like oil, natural gas, and in particular coal. As NASA states, no reputable scientific body has ever disputed these facts.

Forty-four percent of all carbon dioxide emissions worldwide come from coal, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

Climate Dynamics finds that, to keep future warming below the landmark Paris Agreement’s goal of no less than 2℃ (3.6℉) above preindustrial levels in a cost-effective way, and to best pursue its more ambitious goal of 1.5℃ (2.7℉), the world will have to end coal-fired electricity by about 2050.

But none of this matters to Trump. At heart, he is a billionaire among billionaires; and he has already shown himself more than willing to ignore the truth to protect his sponsors. What makes Trump’s denialism especially despicable is that “the people” he claims to represent clearly couldn’t be further from his mind, if the effect on lower-income Americans is any indication.

Like it or not, a coal-free energy economy is coming. CarbonBrief found that renewable energy’s share grew 15.2 percent per year from 2010-2015; while coal, oil, and gas all grew less than two percent. As former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg  wrote in the New York Times, more than 250 US coal plants, nearly half the entire country’s, “have announced in recent years that they will close or switch to cleaner fuels”. Coal was responsible for half of U.S. electricity in 2007; now its share is about one-third. And meanwhile, the economy is growing steadily.

Not to mention in 2010, Americans were dying  from coal pollution at a rate of 13,000 a year, a number that has dropped to 7,500 today, according to Clean Air Task Force. “When politicians talk about the ‘war on coal’”, Bloomberg writes, “they never mention the lives being saved.”

Consumer preferences are also shifting: in January 2017, Pew Research Center found that 65 percent of Americans want to prioritize alternative energy sources, while only 27 percent want to prioritize fossil fuels– despite dropping oil and gas prices. In fact, coal miners formed only 0.019 percent of the U.S. workforce in May 2015, according to the Washington Post.

Trump’s promise to save the dying coal industry only delays the inevitable, doing nothing for the workers’ long-term standard of living. Even he should know that it helps no one to produce something that no one will buy. Coal sector job loss will continue, and then workers will be less likely to have developed competitive skills for the new market. By fighting for his coal executive sponsors, Trump is hurting the working class in the long run, who he could better serve through welfare nets, healthcare, and educational support so they could develop marketable skills.

In his denial of the imminent clean energy economy, he is the one responsible for coal production workers, and others in environmentally harmful  industries, feeling left behind. Ironically enough, it is Democrats who truly understand the unstoppable market forces that Republicans swear by, and Democrats are trying to support disaffected workers while they adjust to economic change.

While Trump can’t stop the changing market, how much his actions will slow efforts to fight climate change is as of yet unclear. And this is where one must remember that there is more than market forces involved, but that climate change will affect human lives in the most base way. This is where we see that Trump might hurt the working class far worse than in their job prospects.

Everything Trump is doing to advance his denialist agenda is making climate change that much more likely, including rising sea levels, unprecedented extreme weather, and worldwide agricultural disruption. And how many more Hurricane Katrina’s (or Maria’s) will it take to demonstrate that, when disaster strikes, the poor always suffer most?


  • Reply Douglas Campbell December 4, 2017 at 10:02 pm

    Science is the sum total of what we know to be true. There is a method for adding to the body of knowledge we know to be true, and that method is called, interestingly enough, “the scientific method”. Under the scientific method, one proposes a hypothesis (a question with one of two possible answers — “true” or “false”), and an experiment to determine the answer to the hypothesis (“the proof”), and then conducts the experiment, with the results indicating whether the hypothesis is correct or incorrect. Scientists submit these results for rigorous peer review and based on the results of that peer review, their research is accepted as truth or is discarded. One of the primary rules in such a proof is that the raw (empirical) data is preserved and presented to the skeptics (the peers) for analysis, and no step in the proof has anything omitted which would prevent the skeptic from reproducing the result. It is considered that a researcher has committed a falsehood if that researcher modifies their empirical data so that it matches their hypothesis, or if the researcher uses a method of acquiring their empirical data which skews the data toward meeting their hypothesis, or if the researcher omits empirical data which would disprove their hypothesis, or if the researcher doesn’t show all of their work in arriving that their conclusion.

    In the matter of AGW (anthropocentric global warming), those espousing that cause have in their hands many models depicting a warming trend of X degrees C per century, where X varies among the models. These use various atmospheric chemicals produced by human industry in various ratios to simulate the effects of human activity upon the global climate. Certainly, in order to validate these models as being correct, they need to be correlated to real world climate measurements — and that’s where the science of AGW goes off the rails. None of the models thus far proposed match empirical measurements, and in several of the research papers purporting to prove that a model is correct, the empirical data has been manipulated to more closely match the model; that activity is known in scientific circles as “cooking the data”. The only way anyone (scientist or no) can know whether the empirical data was “cooked” was to obtain their own matching data; few scientists have the means to do this with climate data, and so most peer reviewers rely on integrity of their fellow researchers — a philosophy which may be somewhat misplaced.

    A classic example of this is contained in the East Anglia e-mail chain, in which researchers discussed how to modify their empirical data, how to prevent peer review of competing ideas, and documented decisions to delete their own research and data which might disprove some of their hypotheses. In addition. further e-mails indicated that they and other researchers were deliberately skewing empirical data by pre-processing it with computer programs which introduced a gradual increase in temperature via an array containing scaling values to make data which was flat appear to be rising in value. When “Climategate” broke, the researchers, pushed to release the unmodified empirical data, pushed back by saying that the original data had been “lost”. This is a cardinal sin in science — not showing the empirical data, and pretending that processed data was empirical.

    We are not skeptics of climate change — for climate is changing constantly, as the Little Ice Age shows. But, as scientists, we expect that science should not be driven by what governments expect to be proven in hypotheses, for the funding will, as was shown in East Anglia, produce shoddy science.


    • Reply Richard Coca December 7, 2017 at 8:25 pm

      Mr. Campbell,

      Please feel free to review the scientific consensus about climate change on the official United State’s NASA’s website. It also contains a list of 18 American Scientific Societies who put out this joint statement:
      “Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver.”

      If you are also skeptical of NASA, please note that among independent researchers and scientists, there is a universal consensus that humans are heavily contributing to climate change. Even from personal experience, I can say that climate change must be acted upon by the government because of the effects it has had on our environment.


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