Op-Ed: Trump takes on a new kind of green – the environment

Photo courtesy of Senator Sanders' office


There is a long tradition of anti-intellectual rabble-rousing here in the USA. As a politician, I can see how this works. Nobody likes to be talked down to. Al Gore and Hillary Clinton struggled to win votes because they seemed out of touch, not one of the people. But never have such politics gone to the extreme this White House, and this Republican party, have taken them.

Donald Trump has now snubbed the Paris Accords, the international agreement by which all of the world’s nations pledged to limit carbon output to a level that would cause only two degrees Celsius of warming. He did so saying, “I am the President of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” which played well to his political fans, I’m sure. Nuts to science and those egghead Europeans, this is America!

Putting aside the fact that two degrees of warming would still have catastrophic effects, residents of the Rockaways, Broad Channel, and the communities around Jamaica Bay, take this move as an attack upon our homes, so recently flooded by Hurricane Sandy. It’s an attack on our ability to work, when the train we commute on crosses an easily flooded body of water. And it’s an attack, too, on our ability to enjoy ourselves, when it destroys our parks and boardwalks.

It’s an attack on the fabric of our lives.

Now, global warming doesn’t cause events like Hurricane Sandy. Long Island, New York and New England were struck by a devastating hurricane in 1938. Such storms have simply always happened. Scientists now know, however, that manmade climate change makes the effects of these storms worse. It does so in two ways. First, it adds energy to the storms themselves. How? A hurricane is fueled by warm water. The warmer the water, the more heat energy funnels up, the stronger the winds. Second, it raises water levels across the board, raising the level of the storm surge. Scientists say Sandy might not have flooded the subway system without the added water level caused by the melting of the ice caps.

So, even if we assume a normal pace of storms in the future – which would be very optimistic – it is beyond doubt those storms will be worse. There might be another Sandy in our lifetimes; there will certainly be more flooding, made worse by global warming.

Trump may say he is President of Pittsburgh, but he is not President of the Rockaways.

More from Around New York