Who does the Jackass In Chief listen to when it comes to setting national policy toward climate change? It certainly isn’t his closest advisers or those with the deepest understanding of the subject. Retired General James Mattis is the Trumpenator’s Secretary of Defense. In 2010, he was head of the US Joint Forces Command. In that role, he signed off on the Joint Operating Environment, a formal assessment of the perceived threats facing the US military. The JOE listed climate change as one of those threat over the next 25 years.
In written testimony submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee after his confirmation hearing last January, Mattis said that thawing conditions in the Arctic and more severe droughts in many parts of the world are two significant challenges for defense planners. These threats are clear and present dangers now, not some projections about what may happen 25 years from now. “Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today,” Mattis told the Senators. “It is appropriate for the Combatant Commands to incorporate drivers of instability that impact the security environment in their areas into their planning.”
Trump has a penchant for ignoring the advice of people he doesn’t agree with and trusting his own judgment in such matters. Recently, he sent his daughter Ivanka to the Middle East to move the Israeli/Palestinian peace process forward. That was a slap in the face to Rex Tillerson, who is nominally the Secretary of State but has effectively been neutered by Trump. Ivanka did quite a job. After she returned home, the White House announced the US Embassy for Israel would move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a development that inflamed passions throughout the region and pushed the peace process backward at least a decade.
In his role as a military leader, Mattis has advocated for less dependence on fossil fuels and more attention to renewable energy strategies. Mattis knows better than most that tanker convoys loaded with diesel fuel are ripe targets for attack by insurgents. In fact, in the various campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past two decades, more casualties among American troops have occurred while guarding such convoys than in ground combat operations.
None of that cuts any ice with Trump. He announced today that the words “climate change” have been dropped from the National Security Statement. Henceforth, the NSS will focus more on the US regaining its economic competitiveness on the world stage. If you read that as promoting more trade and tariff wars, you would not be wrong.
Trump’s idea of making America great again is seeing the nighttime skies over Pittsburgh ablaze with the light of coal-fired Bessemer furnaces churning out millions of tons of American steel. Trump doesn’t realize and doesn’t care that America outsourced its steel-making might to other countries — especially China — 40 years ago. As Bruce Springsteen once sang, “Foreman says these jobs are going, boys, and they ain’t coming back.”
A senior administration official tells The Guardian, “Climate change is not identified as a national security threat but climate and the importance of the environment and environmental stewardship are discussed.” Another high ranking official says the language in Trump’s announcement would closely follow that used to announce his withdrawal of the United States from its commitments to the Paris climate accords.
If Trump isn’t listening to his military advisers when it comes to threats to the country, who is he listening to? Robert Mercer, the wealthy financier behind Citizens United and The Federalist, apparently. It was The Federalist website that first reported the change in the NSS on December 15. Its publisher is Ben Domenech, who has spent most of his life carrying water for Mercer and the Koch Brothers at the Manhattan Institute and the Heartland Institute.
The Federalist website apparently was privy to an advance copy of a draft of the speech and says it will oppose efforts to reduce the burning of oil, gas and coal for energy. “US leadership is indispensable to countering an anti-growth energy agenda that is detrimental to US economic and energy security interests,” the website quoted the document as saying. “Given future global energy demand, much of the developing world will require fossil fuels, as well as other forms of energy, to power their economies and lift their people out of poverty.”
It is hard to imagine lifting very many people out of poverty if their homes have been destroyed by flooding or drought, but such mundane thoughts are too obscure for Our Dear Leader to waste time on. “The economic piece … gets much more attention,” says a government source. “The insistence that economic security is national security.”
On Friday, Trump took a page out of the Senator James Inhofe playbook. Inhofe is notorious for bringing a snowball onto the floor of the Senate to prove that global warming was a hoax.
Trump now stands alone among other world leaders in denying that climate change is worthy of attention. He sees America as it was at the end of World War II, a colossus bestriding the globe with unparalleled economic might and manufacturing prowess. It was a time when “Made In USA” stood for superior quality. But the world has moved on since then.
Trump and his supporters may wish they could turn back the clock but they can’t. Their xenophobic policies and hatred for non-whites will change the dynamics of the equation. No longer will the best and the brightest aspire to come to America. Instead they will turn their attention of other nations where they are welcomed, not despised.
Removing climate change for the National Security Statement will diminish America in the eyes of the world. It will make the US less secure as it sits in splendid isolation between Europe and Asia. No amount of huffing and puffing or tweeting will change that.
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