March 29, 2017
With the stroke of his pen, and evident personal glee, Donald Trump became the biggest environmental villain in world history. Following the trajectory he proposes will ultimately lead to global climate catastrophe, but I doubt he has thought that far. For him this is simply personal grandstanding. Is it possible for one self-obsessed, truth-averse man to ruin the whole world? Is it? Really? I certainly hope not. It is only possible if everyone else capitulates.
This is the time for international leaders to step to the front and take global leadership of the climate issue, charting implementation of the Paris accord and forging essential future policies. Who needs Trump? This is the time for the US Congress, particularly moderate House and Senate Republicans, to collectively resist this shameless assault on the future of our children, grandchildren, and generations to come. This is the time for courageous governors and state leaders to show they don’t look backward at obsolete energy but have better and more realistic plans of their own. Leadership is emerging right down to America’s hometowns and religious institutions, doing what they know is right. This is the time for our corporate leaders to show they have done much more strategic thinking than Trump has, and that they see a radically different future for the world. Hundreds of US business leaders openly supported the Paris Climate accord. Now is when they need to publicly resist the scientific and moral travesty Trump is pursuing. Ironically, considering his background as the CEO of one of the world’s largest oil companies, Rex Tillerson could become a national hero if he spoke the truth now on climate. The Trump children likewise could become national heroes if they would openly speak the truth on climate.
A strong majority of Americans want the government to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant. The discussion rightfully should focus on how society charts a new path, not on whether there is a problem. Every major societal change disrupts industries that no longer produce what society needs, while millions of new jobs are created in the emerging industries. It is morally and economically right to help workers in old industries train for new occupations. In my state of Montana, we don’t need to lay off coal miners; their work can be redirected to restore the unneeded strip mines to viable landscapes over thousands of acres, with funds that already exist from reclamation bonding.
We cannot let one man ruin the planet. At every venue and level of society, we need to openly state the climate truth, and explore with mutual respect the alternatives society must pursue.
Steven W. Running
Regents Professor of Ecology and director of the Numerical Terradynamic Simulation Group
University of Montana