Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Or not, in the case of Donald Trump.
The President’s response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico, suggests Trump has no clue about how to deal with either a short-term climate emergency or the need for radical action to cut fossil fuel use.
As millions of people in Puerto Rico struggle to access electricity and clean water after Hurricane Maria, the President spent most of the weekend at his luxurious New Jersey Golf club.
And for most of the weekend, Trump was engaged in a war of words on Twitter against the media and Mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz who appealed for more help last week.
Instead of helping with the relief effort, the President on Saturday fired off at least eighteen tweets on the subject.
“They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort,” tweeted the President before going on to attack the media for promoting “fake news” stories about the continuing crisis on the island. “The Fake News Networks are working overtime in Puerto Rico doing their best to take the spirit away from our soldiers and first R’s. Shame!” the President foamed. Trump further outraged people on the island by calling local officials “ingrates”.
In response, the comedian, John Oliver, called Trump’s comments “horribly racist”. And Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, said Trump should attacking officials in Puerto Rico and “roll up his sleeves and get to work”.
In contrast to Trump’s feeble response, Tesla is sending Puerto Rico hundreds of its Powerwall battery systems to help stranded people on the island.
Indeed, one commentator on CNN remarked about the President over the weekend: “Full of blame, anger and victimhood. Totally devoid of hope, inspiration or unity. This is Trumpism.”
Trumpism is also climate ignorance. The President does not understand the coming climate crisis. He does not understand the numbers and the data.
As the Economist magazine recently pointed out, the recent Hurricanes to batter the US and Caribbean are part of a worrying pattern: “Since 1970, the number of disasters worldwide has more than quadrupled to around 400 a year”, adding that there are “six times more hydrological events now than in 1980. Last year’s total was the highest ever seen.”
The scale of the challenge has been highlighted by Andrew Jones, the co-director of Climate Interactive, writing with others in the New York Times. They point out that we cannot put more than 2,900 gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere if we want to keep temperatures from increasing by more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit or 2.0 degrees Celsius above the preindustrial level. This is our carbon budget.
However, we have already emitted 2,100 gigatons of CO2, which equates to 73% of our budget. The US is responsible for 20 per cent of those emissions.
They predict that the world is projected to emit 8,100 gigatones of CO2 by 2100, exceeding our carbon budget three times over. That is the scale of the climate challenge ahead. Instead of working towards a clean energy future, Trump is doing exactly the opposite. According to the New York Times he is “taking aim at Mr. Obama’s central environmental legacy, the Clean Power Plan”, aimed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants 32 percent below 2005 levels.
Despite other horrific events in the US today, Trump apparently still plans to visit the island tomorrow. He could make the visit and talk about the need to redouble efforts to rebuild lives and end our fossil fuel addiction. But you know he won’t. His visit will end in failure. Climate failure.