New York Times columnist David Leonhardt opined yesterday (Dec. 30) that “the story of 2018 was climate change.” Leonhardt explains: “The past year is on pace to be the earth’s fourth warmest on record, and the five warmest years have all occurred since 2010. This warming is now starting to cause a lot of damage. In 2018, heat waves killed people in Montreal, Karachi, Tokyo and elsewhere. Extreme rained battered North Carolina and the Indian state of Kerala. The Horn of Africa suffered from drought. Large swaths of the American West burned….”
Despite the worsening hardship, and its clear linkage to climate change, we know what the Trump administration has been up to – “making the problem worse.” Former corporate lobbyists staff the administration, and have been busy over its two years of life eliminating environmental regulatory protections at breakneck speed. “The officials like to talk about free enterprise and scientific uncertainty, but their real money is usually money.”
You can say that again, David, more loudly, please. Genuine champions of free enterprise could be expected to agitate for an end to corporate welfare, but no Trumpsters – with rare exception kleptocrats all, like their leader – have so much as feinted in that direction. As for meaningful scientific uncertainty regarding climate change, there is in fact precious little; the only real disagreement seems to be over just how bad it’s going to get, and just how fast it’s going to get there. That’s it’s bad, and that it’s getting worse faster than anyone expected, there is near-perfect consensus.
Mr. Leonhardt says that he feels guilty that he doesn’t write about climate change more often. He should. Even at the risk of paying less attention to whatever distracting nonsense president Trump is pumping out at the moment, both the columnist and his employer should be shouting about the reality of climate disruption in daily banner headlines. The greatest existential threat to organized human life (its only rival is total annihilation through nuclear war) deserves no lesser attention. Not only from journalists, but from every individual, organization, and profession (listen up, social work!) with a claim to care for people and planet over profits.
Yes, climate change was the story of 2018. And it remains on course to be the likely story of 2019, 2020, 2021, and every year after.