Editorial: ‘A special kind of stupid’

On Tuesday this week, temperatures shot up to 95 degrees, beating Burlington’s previous all-time highs of 93 set in 1947 and 1931. The normal high for the day in city tops out at a mild 80 degrees. While a single day record doesn’t define a trend, July was also the hottest month ever recorded in Vermont.
It’s the same in places all over the world. The worst fires in California’s history, are raging due to extreme heat and lack of rain due to climate change. Earlier this summer, fires ranged throughout the West, including Oregon, Washington and Colorado. Denver topped 106 degrees in July. Africa saw temps rise to all-time highs in mid-July, registering several days over 120-degrees, and more recently Europe has seen temps soar throughout the continent, even in the mountainous regions of Switzerland, Austria and northern Italy. Meanwhile Sweden and Norway have seen unheard of high temperatures for what is normally a cool part of the world.
So what does Trump do in the midst of such evidence of a warming world?
In a move of stunning idiocy, he declared he will reverse measures enacted by President Obama to lower gas mileage standards on the nation’s auto industry, a move Ripton resident and environmentalist Bill McKibben called Trump’s “worst environmental policy move yet… in his endless attempts to rollback environmental protections,” then added in a text, “it takes a special kind of stupid to embrace gas guzzlers the same day scientists tell us America recorded the hottest month in Earth’s history.”
But this isn’t just about the climate (although that is and should be the world’s biggest long-term concern). It’s also about what’s good for the economy. America’s automakers need to be encouraged to develop fuel-efficient cars and trucks, as well as electric vehicles, to stay competitive with the global marketplace unless, as McKibben says, “we wanted to cede dominance to Asia and Europe.”
The Obama measures would have saved 6.9 billion barrels of oil and $457 billion in gas costs for American consumers, but Trump would negate that to appease the oil and gas industry and stoke his supporters who think climate change is a hoax. Worse, Trump is also challenging California’s special exemption from the Clean Air Act, which allows the state to set its own mileage standards — an exemption that 13 other states, including Vermont and the District of Columbia, have joined and which has helped force the auto industry to make mileage efficiency a higher priority than it otherwise would have been.
The good news is that it’s bad politics for the majority of Americans. New polls show that 73 percent of Americans now believe there is solid evidence of global warming (a high point in such polling), which is not bad considering Trump and Fox News continue to claim otherwise in a massive propaganda effort to confuse Republican supporters.
What can be done to counter Trump’s harm? A global movement called Rise for Climate will stage rallies around the world in September, McKibben notes, which are designed “to push local governments toward 100 percent renewable energy, to challenge new pipelines and refineries, and to rack up new victories in the $7 trillion fossil fuel divestment campaign.”
So there you go. We can moan and groan about Trump’s actions, or we can mobilize and be part of a grassroots campaign for an ideal solution, or at the very least, fight against Trump’s effort to rollback the environmental protections needed so our children and grandchildren aren’t faced with increasing dire consequences.
Nor is Trump’s plan a done deal, and the more public outcry that can be heard leading up to the mid-term elections in November, the more Republican politicians throughout the country will back away from actions they know are poison to the party. Moreover, if Republicans do lose control of either the House or Senate, the more they will become willing to buck a president that could spell even greater troubles for the GOP over the next two years. Once Republicans believe he is the albatross around their necks (and while that seems unlikely now, these mid-terms are the first real test of the direction he is taking the GOP), it’s likely many will dessert him and the policies he espouses in droves.

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