Donald Trump Fails To Address Climate Crisis In Speech To Congress

Washington DC heat wave February 2017

Sitting in his office in Washington DC, Donald Trump should have no difficulty acknowledging the reality of climate change. Much of the United States experienced unusually high temperatures last month. In February 2017, daily high temperatures in Washington DC were at or below the historical average only 25% of the time. What’s more, as the above chart shows, on the majority of days when daily high temperatures were above average, they were often very high above average. The few lower than average daily temperatures were only barely below average. Like most of the rest of the country, Washington DC experienced temperatures typical of May during the last full month of winter this year.

Weather is not the same thing as climate. However, for years and years, the scientific conclusion that the Earth’s climate is becoming hotter, and is doing so because of human activities, has not been in serious dispute. The point is that this February’s unusual weather has been a strong reminder for rational Americans that our planet’s climate change is accelerating, and already creating dramatic changes.

Almost as alarming as the remarkable shift in our planet’s climate is that, in spite of the convergence of strong scientific and experiential cues, Trump did not once acknowledge climate change in his speech to Congress last night. What Trump did talk about were his plans to allow corporations that mine coal to operate with lax environmental guidelines, destroying entire mountains and polluting the drinking water for communities downstream. Burning coal creates significant amounts of greenhouse gases that speed up anthropogenic climate change.

Trump has claimed that boosting the mining and burning of coal will create many jobs. In fact, expanding coal mining is an astonishingly weak and inefficient means of job creation because coal mining operations are increasingly automated. These days, when coal mining companies expand, new robots get as much of the work as human beings.

Donald Trump did not mention in his speech that he plans to sign into law the REINS Act, a law that Republicans in Congress passed in a way that specifically ensured that coal miners will no longer be protected from abusive employers and dangerous working conditions. While the number of coal mining jobs is unlikely to experience any dramatic increase as a result of Republican policy proposals, those human workers who remain on the job are likely to suffer an increased rate of accidents and corporate abuse.