The Economist Calls U.S. Administration’s Response to Climate Change “Cupidity”

August 20, 2017 – In case you don’t know what cupidity means its synonyms are greed, avarice, acquisitiveness, covetousness, rapacity, materialism and money-grubbing. And what makes this even more frightening is the environmental policy response favours polluting over conservation, and rich over poor. Regulations designed to wean America off fossil fuels and to monitor existing fossil fuel producers are being rolled back. The United States of Donald Trump will not play with the rest of the international community when it comes to moving to a low-carbon future even though the country is the second largest carbon emitter. To “cupidity” we can add selfishness as primary characteristics of this administration.

States The Economist, in it recent July 15th issue, “The rich are disproportionate contributors to the carbon emissions that power climate change. It is cruel and perverse, therefore, that the costs of warming should be disproportionately borne by the poor. And it is both insult and injury that the wealthy are more mobile in the face of climate-induced hardship, and more effective at limiting the mobility of others. The strains this injustice places on the social fabric might well lead to woes more damaging than rising temperatures themselves.”

What is meant that the rich are disproportionate contributors? The rich are the owners of the industries that have contributed to the growth in carbon emissions. And the rich like President Donald Trump appear to be the ones in charge of laws that are mobility limiting. Take for example the latest immigration proposals from the American president, the European Union’s response to the movement of people from the Middle East and North Africa fleeing climate-change induced drought, poverty, and war. And what woes can come of the uncertainty that climate change brings?

And what woes can come of the uncertainty that climate change brings? An anti-science movement is currently underway in the United States and in some other countries. Populism we have already in President Trump with its anti-intellectual thrust. And now fascism is re-emerging with its race theories and hate. It is no coincidence that the latter has found footing in a world dealing with climate and, therefore, economic uncertainty.

On August 8th I published a summary of the report produced by 13 U.S. federal agencies that weighed the impact climate change will have on America based on limiting temperature rise to between 1.5 and 2.0 Celsius (2.7 and 3.6 Fahrenheit) as defined by the Paris Climate Agreement. Those two numbers were seen as target thresholds not to be passed. The release produced in draft and leaked to the New York Times, was immediately slammed by the White House, not for its content, but for the fact that it was published without “first verifying its contents.” The report release date was originally to be on August 18th. But we haven’t seen hide nor hair of it, which pretty much confirms what the scientists feared, that the White House would suppress it because it was off message.

The release, produced in draft, and leaked to the New York Times, was immediately condemned by the White House, not for the content, but for the fact that it was published without “first verifying its contents.” The report was originally to be published on August 18th. But have we seen it? No, which pretty much confirms what the scientists who wrote it feared, that the White House would suppress it because it was off the administration’s message.

And what is that message?

  1. Climate change is a Chinese hoax.
  2. Carbon dioxide is good for plants and more of it in the atmosphere is a good thing.
  3. No Americans, or for that matter any other people on the planet, need to worry about climate change because the weather is always changing.
  4. God knows best and works in mysterious ways.
  5. There is a future in coal mining and the jobs of coal miners are coming back to make America great again.
  6. The people of Tybee Island, in Chesapeake Bay, should stay put. The President has assured their mayor personally by telephone call that the sea levels will not rise. He hasn’t tried the King Canute thing.
  7. Greed is good. Making money is more important than the health, safety, and future of a plurality of Americans.

The most condemnatory aspect of this cupidity is its utter disregard for those most impacted by what the science is telling us. If you take a map of the United States and draw a line roughly following the Mason-Dixon boundary of Southern Pennsylvania and continue west, it demarcates the American winners and losers to climate change. The South, Southeastern and Midwestern United States (from Texas to Nebraska) are the regions of the country that will be most impacted in the coming decades. Coincidentally, these are the parts of the country which voted for Donald Trump in 2016, and these areas continue to be where he polls best.

The American North, Northeast and Pacific Northwest will undoubtedly get warmer, but not too warm and probably neither too wet or too dry. The South, Southeastern and Midwestern parts of the country will get hotter and undoubtedly drier and windier.

The former regions already have higher incomes and GDP.

The latter, the most negatively impacted by climate change, are already lower income regions with less economic diversity and opportunity. Researchers talk about seeing a GDP decline of up to 40% in some of these areas by mid-century.

You wonder what the continuing attraction can possibly be.

Could it be “cupidity?”  Do these people believe they are exempt from climate change and its impact. Do they believe that Trump will deliver on any of his promises?

For the few of you from these regions who may read this blog posting, it shouldn’t have to be said but here goes:

You won’t be pursuing happiness if your house eventually succumbs to rising sea levels.

You won’t be pursuing happiness if that promised coal mining job never happens, and other opportunities vanish as businesses and communities become overwhelmed by a hotter future.

You won’t be pursuing happiness if where you live today will no longer be habitable in coming decades, and you abandon your life to become a climate change refugee.

And you certainly won’t be wealthy.


Len Rosen lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a researcher and writer who has a fascination with science and technology. He is married with a daughter who works in radio, and a miniature red poodle who is his daily companion on walks of discovery. More...