• June 25, 2024

Will U.S. voters elect a climate skeptic in times of record-breaking heat?

Will U.S. voters elect a climate skeptic in times of record-breaking heat?

Andres Oppenheimer

Miami was far from alone in suffering the hottest temperatures on record for this time of the year in recent days. The same happened in Mexico City, New Delhi and several other places around the globe.

In fact, last month was the hottest May ever recorded globally, and the 12th month in a row to set a new high, Europe’s Copernicus Climate Change Service announced last week.

Yet, amazingly, even though the planet endured record-breaking heat waves in 2023, and this year is marking a new high, climate change is almost absent from the campaign for the Nov. 5 presidential elections.

It should be the hottest issue — pardon the pun — on the agenda, but it ranks 18th among Americans’ priorities, way below the economy and immigration, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll.

What’s worse, presidential hopeful Donald Trump, a long-time climate change skeptic, is ahead in several polls and could win. Trump has repeatedly mocked climate change warnings and promotes fossil fuels, ignoring the scientific consensus that climate change is likely caused by man-made greenhouse emissions.

As crazy as it sounds at a time of record heat waves, Trump is publicly vowing to reverse the Biden administration’s ambitious laws to combat global warming.

According to the Trump campaign website, a second Trump administration would unleash a wave of oil drilling and speed up approvals of fracking permits in public lands. “To keep pace with the world economy that depends on fossil fuels for more than 80% of its energy, President Trump will DRILL, BABY, DRILL,” the campaign’s official website says.

The Trump campaign website also says that, “from day one,” the former president would kill hundreds of laws to combat global warming adopted by the Biden administration, including rules to reduce car emissions and subsidies for buyers of electric vehicles.

Trump would also again order a U.S. withdrawal from the 2016 Paris Agreement to control climate change, which calls on countries to substantially reduce planet-warming emissions. Trump had pulled out of the Paris Agreement at the start of his term, but Biden later reversed that decision.

At an April fundraiser with oil company owners and executives at his Mar-a-Lago compound, Trump promised to go out of his way to help fossil fuel industries if they donated $1 billion to his campaign, The Washington Post reported. Trump specifically vowed to scrap current policies that encourage production of electric vehicles, wind and solar energy, and other green power sources opposed by the oil industry, the Post said.

Environmental groups are terrified at the prospect of a Trump victory. Should Trump win, the new administration “would take a sledgehammer to US climate and environmental policies,” the Sierra Club environmental group said on May 30.

While Trump has called the concept of man-made climate change a hoax, Biden has described the climate crisis as an “existential threat.” In what may be one of his greatest achievements, Biden has passed a 2022 law that may amount to the most far-reaching strategy to fight global warming in U.S. history.

Biden’s 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, which was misleadingly called that way in an effort to get it passed through Congress, includes more than 100 new regulations to cut greenhouse gas emissions, preserve public lands, and promote the use of solar, wind and other alternative energy sources.

Biden’s IRA provides more than $300 billion in tax credits to speed up the transition to clean energy sources, including tax relief measures for people who buy electric cars or install solar roofs in their homes. It also provides billions to help industries to cut emissions from their factories.

According to the prestigious Science magazine, Biden’s IRA, alongside his Bipartisan Infrastructure law, will reduce U.S. toxic emissions by 40% from 2005 levels by 2030.

Trump’s main argument for dismissing climate change warnings is that the transition to green energies is too costly for industries, and is therefore an “industry-killing” and “jobs-killing” plan. Some of Trump’s fellow climate skeptics also point out, in this case with some reason, that electric vehicles will not solve the climate problems because we have not yet found the way to dispose of their batteries in ways that don’t harm the environment.

But Trump’s “drill, baby, drill” policy is economic populism at its worst. Like populists of all stripes, Trump is offering instant economic relief at the expense of the gradual destruction of the planet.

It’s an incredibly short-sighted and dumb non-policy, especially at a time when many of us are suffering record heat waves and scientists are reporting that glaciers are melting, sea levels are rising, and tropical storms are becoming more severe than ever in recent memory.

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