Guest Opinions

Pro and Con: Should Congress defy President Donald Trump and move quickly to deal with climate change?

Yes: Congress should heed environmentalists, farmers and fight climate change

Although the Trump administration believes man-made climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese, the Senate and House of Representatives should not abrogate their responsibility to maintain America’s commitment to halting the steady melting of polar ice caps and the rising of sea levels.

These catastrophes are caused by greenhouse gases being belched into the atmosphere.

With a single stroke of a pen, President Trump signed an executive order slashing environmental regulations, an act that may run afoul of environmental laws enacted by presidents from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama.

Congress should act promptly to ensure that Trump does not unconstitutionally violate by executive fiat federal environmental laws intended to protect the atmosphere and our precious water resources.

Trump’s order requires that for every new regulation, including those that protect the environment, two others must be eliminated.

This decision represents an absurd attack on the protections now afforded to our environment from the ravages brought about by human-caused climate change.

Only a few days into his administration, Trump told the CEOs of Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler that he believed that current environmental regulations were “out of control.”

In the same breath, Trump said, “I am, to a large extent, an environmentalist.” Trump declaring that he is an environmentalist in a meeting with three top automotive industry executives is like the president avowing his support for healthy foods to the top executives of America’s three largest candy companies.

Scrapping environmental regulations will do nothing to curb rising sea levels, disappearing shorelines and increasingly erratic weather conditions.

Congress should immediately correct the sharp deviation of U.S. environmental policy by taking decisive steps to maintain the country’s commitment to clean ener


The Trump administration and its Republican and a few Democratic supporters in Congress are falling under the spell of “inexhaustible” tar sands oil via the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines and “clean coal,” an environmental oxymoron if there ever was one.

Congress should guarantee that the Trump administration does not pull out of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change — also known as the Paris Accord.

This can be done by passing legislation, immune to a certain Trump veto, that would keep the United States bound to the Paris agreement’s targeted decreases in carbon dioxide emission levels.

In this regard, Congress should seek the assistance of the nation’s new secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, ironically, a backer of the Paris accord even though until recently he was the CEO of Exxon Mobil.

Tillerson may be able to ensure legislation binding the United States to the Paris agreement has enough congressional support to override a Trump veto.

Congressional Republicans in the hip pocket of anti-environmental lobbyists like the Koch brothers are vulnerable to political pressure from the voters.

Since 2012, the Midwest breadbasket has experienced its worst drought in a hundred years.

The farmers of Kansas, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Missouri, Oklahoma, northern Texas, Iowa and other drought-plagued states and regions can and should apply painful pressure on their congressional representatives to shape up on climate change or face being shipped out of office.

When President Nixon pushed through environmental laws during his administration, he had the support of many Great Plains Democrats, the old “prairie populists.”

There is no reason why Midwest farmers cannot compel their Koch brothers-financed legislators to make a choice between supporting environmental laws or finding a new line of work.

Trump and time are not on the side of our planet’s continued well-being. That is why action by Congress must be taken now.

No: Climate change is being used as political hobgoblin

The media and hostile congressional interrogators have routinely asked nominees for high positions in the new Trump administration some variant of the question, “Is climate change a hoax?”

Nominees should answer forthrightly, “No!”

Climate has been changing since the Earth was formed — some 4.5 billion years ago. Climate changes on every time scale — whether decades, centuries or millennia.

The climate of Greenland was warm enough for farming around the year 1100, but by 1500, the Little Ice Age drove Norse settlers out. There is no opportunity for a hoax, since climate change is so well documented by historical and geophysical records.

But none of the climate change of the past was due to humans. The very minor warming in the past few centuries is mostly from non-human causes as well.

What is really being asked is, “Do you agree with the party line of the previous administration, that continued emissions of carbon dioxide will destroy the planet unless the people of the world do exactly what they are told?”

The answer to this question should also be a resounding no; we should not bow to religious dogma disguised as science.

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines the word “hoax” as “to trick into believing or accepting as genuine something false and often preposterous.”

So hoax is a pretty good description of the article of faith that nominees are being asked to endorse: that carbon dioxide is supposedly dangerous “carbon pollution.”

All living creatures respire huge amounts of carbon dioxide every day. Carbon dioxide is essential to the growth of plants, which have been coping with a carbon dioxide famine for several tens of millions of years, an instant in geological time.

Satellites already show dramatic greening of the earth as carbon dioxide levels begin to recover toward their historical norms. Those levels had been measured in thousands of parts per million (ppm), not today’s puny 400 ppm.

Yes, carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, but much less important than the major greenhouse gas, water vapor, H2O, and clouds.

Observations, including the extended “hiatus” in warming since about the year 2000 — which is poised to continue now that the El Nino warming of 2015-2016 is behind us — show that more atmospheric carbon dioxide will cause only modest warming of the Earth’s surface.

This would benefit the world in many ways, extending growing seasons and lessening human mortality, which increases in cold weather. And modest warming means that there will also be no dangerous increase in sea levels. Climate alarmists are advancing a false narrative.

To limit increases of atmospheric carbon dioxide, smug elites demand that developing countries not burn fossil fuels as inexpensive, reliable sources of energy.

It is immoral to deny much of the world’s population this opportunity to escape centuries of poverty. Real pollutants from fossil fuel combustion, oxides of sulfur, nitrogen, fly ash, etc., do need rational control by cost-effective technology. But more carbon dioxide is a benefit to humanity and the “social cost of carbon,” aka carbon dioxide, is negative.

Many sincere people, without the time or training to dig into the facts, have been misled by the demonization of carbon dioxide.

This seems to be a recurrent feature of human history. In past centuries, some of the most educated members of society wrote learned books on how to ferret out witches and presided in trials where witches were condemned to death.

There never was a threat from witches, and there is no threat from increasing carbon dioxide.

The great Baltimore iconoclast, H.L. Mencken got it right when he observed: “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” Climate change is the latest hobgoblin.

Wayne Madsen is a progressive commentator whose articles have appeared in leading newspapers throughout the U.S. and Europe. Readers may write him at 415 Choo Choo Lane, Valrico, FL 33594.

William Happer is an emeritus Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics at Princeton University and a former Director of Energy Research of the U.S. Department of Energy. Readers may write him at 258 Jadwin Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544.