Bad News, Good News and Climate Change

The election of Donald Trump—who has called human-caused climate change a “total hoax”—was bad news for those of us concerned about the effects of global warming. The good news is that he cannot legally do anything to stop the 190 countries who have vowed to reduce carbon dioxide pollution, nor can he unilaterally erase the US commitment to the Paris agreement. But he can slow or weaken the enforcement of President Obama’s climate rules. Maybe his views will change when rising sea levels continue to threaten his coastal properties, such as “Trump Hollywood” on the vulnerable coast of Florida. Even if that area is not flooded in the near future, Trump may soon find that insurance companies will no longer insure his threatened coastal properties, effectively making those properties worthless. Such a blow to his pocketbook is bound to get his attention.

One of the reasons why Trump was elected, in spite of his obvious characterological flaws, was because people generally make decisions based on their emotions more than logical reasoning. Studies have shown that it is primarily the emotional part of the brain that lights up (as seen in PET scans) when people make political decisions, regardless of their political persuasion. The data shows that people fearful of immigrants and terrorism in US strongly favored Trump, kind of a “Brexit” mentality.

For a similar reason, I think people can’t accept the data amassed showing that global warming is not a hoax. From an emotional perspective, it is more palatable to deny it. But that denial will probably fade as more concrete events directly impact people, like flooding in Florida or the historic drought in California. Who knows…maybe even Trump believes in global warming, but declared otherwise to win votes from the people most likely to vote for him. What politicians say and what they truly believe are often at odds.

What was bad news for me about Trump’s election was more than offset by the news I received two days later. I just learned we can look forward to our second grandchild. That’s a global warming of my heart.