Hands up if you remember what the universe felt like back in the heady days of Donald Trump’s (first) inauguration, when ordinary Americans allowed themselves to hope—as they do, for a brief but magical interlude, every four years—that This Time Isn’t Going To Suck As Much?
The air was moving. Movement was in the air. Business As Usual had just become a thing of the past in politics (and the way of the future in emissions).
Here are the personal impressions I journaled almost 3 years ago. The lucky thing is this stuff wasn’t remotely good enough to post, so now you get to read it for the first time!
(I sure was a cynical, non-naïve old bastard when I was younger, wasn’t I?)
Of course, what I had no possible way of guessing at the time was how uncannily clairvoyant I was.
Don’t hesitate to tell me in comments below if I got some trivial detail or two wrong. I suppose I have get used to criticism if I’m going to make prophecies—especially about the future—don’t I?
As the saying goes: men with crystal balls shouldn’t have glass jaws.
I’m not normally one to express my opinion about topics, but a couple of fans have been begging relentlessly for my reaction to the seismic event that will go down in history as the 2016 US Presidential election, so OK: if you both insist (hi Mum, hi Dad), here goes.
First, it’s hard to believe the normally-reliable expertocracy got this one so ass-forwards. Perhaps we’ve just gotten so used to our pundits, mavens and boffins having their asses oriented in the correct, backwards direction whenever they opine on national television that the moment they make a slight miscalculation it’s something of a disorienting trauma. I’m literally derealizing in real time.
It’s hard to overstate just how fundamental to human civilization is the institution of predicting election results, but I’ll give it a go. The day we can no longer trust pre-election prognosticators is the day we need to hold elections to figure out who our leaders are going to be.
It just Doesn’t Make Sense™! I mean, we’ve got supercomputers that can accurately anticipate the Earth’s temperature decades in advance, so why can’t we crunch a vastly, exponentially, orders-of-magnitude easier numerical problem like extrapolating the results of Presidential straw polls?
Seriously though, even Ian Woolley managed to pick the winner (and made a tidy profit betting against The People Who Are You Know Actually Like Paid To Know What They’re Talking About). Don’t get me wrong. Ian’s a comic genius and I like him like a friend, but come on: the guy doesn’t even believe in catastrophic anthropogenic global warming. We’re not exactly talking about someone who’s known for being plugged in to the future reality on the ground, as agreed by an overwhelming vote of the scientific community, here! You know, the people who are, like, paid to know what they’re talking about.
Speaking about climate, I know you shouldn’t speak about climate unless you want to ruin a perfectly pleasant discussion about religious politics, but Vishnu dammit! I’ve spent my whole life keeping my views to myself and where’s it gotten me? No place at all (leaving aside here, obviously). So sue me.
Anyway, the always-rational Joe Romm has a characteristically nuanced piece out today in which he asks what we’re all thinking: will President Trump pull the plug on a livable climate?
Alas, mesuspects even Joe may have allowed the prevailing air of melodrama to get the better of him somewhat—and when Joe isn’t immune to an air, you know it’s a virulent one.
The starting-point of Dr Romm’s thesis is that
The fate of humanity is in the hands of a denier who pledged to kill domestic and global climate action
And yes—technically, this is a good, objective paraphrase of the President Elect’s climate platform. But let’s be sober about this: every political candidates in history has made grand promises, and Donald Trump (whatever his protestations to the contrary) is just that. A politician.
Trump threatens to disembowel climate science, he threatens to turn off the torrential knowledge-spigot that is the Global Earth Systems Change sciences, but you’ll have to forgive my muted optimism. I’ve heard it all before.
Here in Australia, then-PM Tony Abbott vowed to dissolve the gangrenous monasteries of climatonomy. And to his credit, he did have a handful of the fatter, more corrupt klepto-clerics abducted and desaparecidos, presumably sold off for slaughter in the debating pits. But last time I checked, my local Climate Ethics Centre for Excellence was still standing, not a brick out of place. So much for Team Abbott’s famous slogan (CLIMA DELENDA EST).
Does the Latin [Copula +] Gerundive of Obligation mean nothing any more? What part of CLIMA DELENDA EST do these clowns in Canberra not understand?
Bottom line: Mr Trump can claim he’s going to return the world to a pre-An Inconvenient Truth Dark Age of climate ignorance, incuriosity and insouciance. Call me a Show Me State cynic, but I’ll start celebrating when he does it.