Denying climate change doesn’t negate it

Late last week, as the Camp Fire continued to cast a pall on Butte County—where 88 people died as a result of the firestorm and hundreds more remain missing—the White House scoffed at a newly released federal report on climate change that underscores the significance of its related economic repercussions.

The study concludes that by century’s end, the financial toll—due to sea level rise, heat-related fatalities and infrastructure damage—will climb to hundreds of billions per year, with calculations ranging from $300 billion to $500 billion. Just for ground transportation, such as roadways and bridges, the cost estimate is $21 billion. To put the annual total in perspective, it would double the impact of the Great Recession.

The National Climate Assessment is nonpartisan. It’s a congressional mandate. The analysis, more than 1,600 pages, comes from 13 federal agencies and 300 scientists. Yet, President Trump dismisses their findings with a Twitter-worthy “I don’t believe it.”

No wonder: Over its first nearly two years, his administration has sought to undo or rein in previously established policies designed to curb the effects of global warming. Among the president’s most high-profile rejections of the scientific evidence is his vow to pull the United States from the Paris Agreement, a landmark commitment from nearly 200 countries to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

The timing of his latest denial couldn’t be worse. The report came out days after he visited Butte County to see destruction from the Camp Fire—one of many disasters worsened by, if not attributable to, climate change. Then Monday (Nov. 26), two members of his cabinet, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, came to Paradise.

Remains of the missing were still being recovered. Yet here they were, with Congressman Doug LaMalfa tagging along, offering so-called answers.

Trump and his secretaries essentially blamed trees for fires. In all the talk of thinning forests, none mentioned climatic factors. Nor, of course, has LaMalfa, another staunch denier, whose big solution is including “forestry” (i.e., logging) in the Farm Bill, as he tweeted several times this week.

How many hurricanes, floods and—yes—wildfires do these Republicans need to see for reality to set in? To paraphrase a saying, it’s climate change, stupid. 

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