The incoming Trump administration promises to accelerate the disaster that’s now underway for animals and for the planet overall.
Last week we heard that within four years there will be fewer than one third the number of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles that were on the planet in 1970.
And this week we heard from New Zealand that 90 percent of the country’s 92 seabird species—the highest concentration of seabirds on the planet—are on the edge of extinction.
None of this, however, is of any concern to the incoming administration. Since President-elect Trump calls climate change a hoax “created by and for the Chinese,” we can assume he’s neither aware of, nor interested in the fact that we’re already in what are just the early days of a Sixth Mass Extinction of species.
During the campaign, Trump told Petersen’s Hunting that any director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service appointed by him would “ideally be a hunter.” His adult sons spend their vacations killing trophy animals around the world. One of them has even put himself forward for the position of Secretary of the Interior Secretary.
Another candidate for the job is oil tycoon Forrest Lucas, founder of a group whose mission is “to defend and preserve the freedoms of American consumers, farmers, ranchers, outdoor enthusiasts, and animal owners.”
For Secretary of Agriculture, several leaders of the factory farming industry are being considered by the transition team, which is itself led by Gov. Chris Christie, who vetoed a state ban on cruel gestation crates for pigs when, during the primary season, he was trying to win the favor of the pork industry in Iowa.
The sheer gusto and bluster with which they are carrying out this exercise in denial and defiance.Basically, nonhuman animals are only of interest to these people to the extent that they provide resources, entertainment and sport.
And yesterday, the President-elect chose Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute to lead his Environmental Protection Agency transition team. Ebell, one of the most active and determined climate change deniers, has called the participation of the United States in the Paris Climate Treaty unconstitutional, and has said that while “there has been a little bit of warming,” it’s been very modest and “nothing to worry about.”
Trump has also pledged to remove the United States from the Paris climate agreement. This will have three major effects:
- The U.S. is the second largest emitter of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere (China being the largest).
- If the U.S. pulls out of the agreement, other countries will see little if any reason to participate in it.
- Wealthy countries have agreed to subsidize the poorer ones as they cut their emissions.
As New Scientist explains:
The aim of the Paris agreement is to limit warming to 2°C. Even if all countries stick to their pledges and do even more after 2030 when their pledges end – the planet will still warm by more than 3°C.
The Paris deal was only ever intended as a starting point. Under the agreement, countries are supposed to regularly review and improve their action plans.
The trouble is there is no way to enforce this. While the ratcheting-up part of the Paris agreement is technically legally binding, in practice it depends entirely on trust and reciprocity: “I’ll do it if you do it.”
Oil, gas and coal industries are already lining up to get their share of the spoils of Trump’s victory, TransCanada is going to try to revive the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline that President Obama rejected a year ago. (Farmers and ranchers joined environmentalists in pressing Obama to stop the pipeline.) But things are looking a lot brighter today for the industry, and TransCanada is “evaluating ways to convince the new administration on the benefits, the jobs and the tax revenues this project brings to the table.”
Planet Earth, of course, does not involve itself in human affairs and politics. It plays by its own rules – the rules of physics, chemistry and biology. And so it has already decided the future course of events. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has passed the 400 ppm threshold permanently. Once again, we have the hottest year on record – along with the related floods and other extreme weather events. Arctic sea ice is disappearing faster than ever. Sea levels are rising, causing more coastal flooding. (Miami Beach is spending $400 million in its efforts to turn back the tide.) And the oceans are turning acid.
Frankly, the situation is already way passed the point of no return, and no new administration would be able to stop what’s happening. But what stands out is the sheer gusto and bluster with which the incoming administration is carrying out this exercise in denial and defiance in the face of reality.