Trump Picks Leading Climate Denier to Head EPA During Time of Climate Crisis
This year is going to be the hottest on record – and Trump and his cabinet couldn’t have come to power at a worse time, says journalist Dahr Jamail
SHARMINI PERIES: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore. President-elect Donald Trump has just appointed Oklahoma Attorney-General Scott Pruitt as Head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt’s past election campaigns were all funded by big oil giants such as ExxonMobil, Koch Industries and Alliance Coal — that’s just to mention a few. Bernie Sanders has said he opposed the “sad and dangerous move”. Joining us now to talk about this and what kind of climate disasters are upon us is Dahr Jamail. He is an award-winning journalist and author of The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq, and his upcoming book, The End of Ice. It is forthcoming from The New Press. Thank you so much for joining us, Dahr.
DAHR JAMAIL: Thanks for having me.
SHARMINI PERIES: Dahr, what do you make of the EPA appointment of President-elect Trump?
DAHR JAMAIL: Well, it’s consistent with Trump’s perspective on the environment and on human-caused climate disruption in that, once again, instead of appointing someone appropriate for the times and the crisis that we’re in — we are in a planetary environmental crisis with climate change — but instead of bringing on someone who would be honest about that crisis and start to take measures to actively mitigate it, he’s literally brought in… it’s another classic case of the fox guarding the henhouse where he brings in someone who, as you mentioned in the introduction, is literally bought and paid for by the fossil fuel industry. This is a man who has actively organized lawsuits for years against now the department that he is going to be head of, the EPA, and has been actively working to undercut them and environmental regulations across the board from protections of clean water, clean air, and protections against the fracking industry to protect people’s water nearby where fracking is occurring.
I mean, it’s a very, very long list because this person is literally a puppet for the fossil fuel industry, and now, of course, in charge of an administration who theoretically is tasked with protecting the environment and safeguarding drinking water and things like this, to literally this is someone who will be working actively as the head of that organization to disassemble whatever protections are left by these things that we’ve discussed and myriad others as we now prepare to brace ourselves for what a Trump Presidency is really going to mean for this country.
SHARMINI PERIES: Speaking of bracing ourselves, Dahr, before this appointment was made, and they derailed our conversation, we had actually booked you to talk about the slow-moving disasters, extreme climate change that’s already upon us. You’ve been documenting what you call anthropogenic climate disruptions for the last few years. Talk to us about that. This is about temperature records and what they signify in terms of global patterns, and then, of course, one cannot again avoid what we think the reaction of the Trump Presidency might be to these kinds of events.
DAHR JAMAIL: Well, to start on a little bit of a lighter note, it’s interesting that in the last couple of weeks, most people are familiar with Trump having tweeted several years ago that his take on climate change is essentially that it’s a so-called Chinese hoax, and it was kind of humorous that a couple of weeks ago the Chinese government came out and basically called him on that and said, “No, actually, it’s not. We believe it’s real. And we’re actually mass-producing solar and wind energy on a wider scale than even is the US.” So, I thought that was a bit interesting.
But this situation, bringing in a guy like Donald Trump and then looking at who he’s populating his cabinet with, it could not come at a possibly worse time. This year has already been declared by the World Meteorological Organization of the UN as going to be the hottest year ever on record. It beat out the previous hottest year, which was last year. It’s important to note that 15 of the 16 hottest years ever recorded have happened since the year 2000. There are record levels of CO2 now, parts per million, in the atmosphere. Recently we crossed a threshold where, from now on, every single person born on the planet will live on a planet that will never again see lower than 400 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere.
And all of this in the context of remembering that the organization 350.org, they chose that name because 350 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere was the threshold agreed upon that we cannot afford to pass. That once we pass that threshold, catastrophic positive feedback looks… or runaway feedback looks, if you will, will be set in, and change of circumstances that will inevitably lead to catastrophic climate change on a global scale.
That was 350.org. Now we’re at 400. We’re over 400 now, and it’s continuing to increase on an annual basis. So there are several significant milestones just in the last couple of months that we’ve passed, let alone looking at what we’re seeing over the past year. And as I put together another of my climate dispatches that we’ll be publishing next week, another ominous report has recently been published in just the last couple of weeks showing that at current trajectory, meaning continuing on with business as usual and not changing anything as far as dramatic cuts in emissions and wide-scale moves to work to mitigate the impacts of climate disruption, we could actually be looking at an 8C temperature increase by 2100 if nothing is changed.
SHARMINI PERIES: Wow. One of the greatest catastrophes besides the climate that’s upon is the disinformation that’s out there. Breitbart News said that these record temperatures that we are experiencing is due to the El Niño Effect, which the US House Science Committee then retweeted. How do we deal with this incorrect information out there, based on what the scientists and researchers like you are documenting here?
DAHR JAMAIL: It is an interesting time in the media with all of the misinformation and fake news and now that, of course, we’re about to have a President-elect that can’t finish a sentence without including a lie in it. So it is a very, very challenging time. And I think it’s basically putting the average person who reads the news in a position where everyone needs to learn some basic journalism skills, and everyone certainly needs to be practicing critical thinking, as we all should have been all along. But by practicing some journalism skills I would say triangulate your news. See how a piece of information, a piece of news is being reported in different select media, and then another journalist skill is go to the original source. Find what are the most trusted sources on this story.
So, for example, if we’re talking about climate disruption, I like to go to NASA. I like to go to what are the reports on a particular subject that have been published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and go to the most prestigious world-renowned bodies, scientific bodies that do exist for that information because they’re just simply putting out the facts. For example, look at the thermometer if you want to know what the temperature is. Don’t take someone else’s word for it. I think that’s what we all need to be doing whether we’re talking about climate disruption or what Trump’s policies are going to be regarding Guantanamo Bay, etcetera. That we’re simply going to have to do the fact-checking on our own, because certainly the mainstream media has been an abject failure for quite some time now. And, then, again, it just underscores the importance of independent media like your network and the one that I write for where make sure that where you’re getting your information, check their funding. And if it’s coming from the government or corporate sources, then it’s certainly going to be suspect.
SHARMINI PERIES: Right. What is the reaction — you work closely with some of the environmental organizations — what is the reaction on the part of the environmental movement to these moves that Donald Trump is making, given the dangers at hand. Bernie Sanders has said so. He said this was a dangerous move. What do you anticipate the fight back is going to be on the part of the environmental movement, and what’s the buzz out there?
DAHR JAMAIL: Well, I don’t work closely with any of the organizations, but I do really have my finger on the pulse of the scientific reports that are being published and ongoing status of what is happening globally as far as extreme weather events related to climate disruption and what the most recent scientific reports are. But, certainly, what we’re already seeing in groups like Center for Biological Diversity and others like this, NRDC, etcetera, that do actively work, campaign and, most importantly, file lawsuits, the majority of which are victorious, against violators of environmental law. So, they certainly have been girding themselves for what’s coming. They know that they need to fundraise. They need to probably hire more people and get ready to deal with what’s — well, I’ve been referring to it is this really is like “shock and awe”, which was the military tactic brought out and parade and used during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. We are looking at that now, and I think that’s why the average news consumer, as well as us journalists, we already feel overwhelmed and that we’re just trying to keep up with what’s going on, because everything’s being thrown at us at once, and I think that we need to basically understand that that’s how it’s going to be now for an indefinite period. And rest assured that plans are already being drawn up by Pruitt, who we discussed, and all of these other foxes guarding their respective henhouses that Trump’s appointing into his cabinet. Rest assured that in this time between now and when President-elect Trump is actually sworn in and his cabinet is brought into power that the second that that deal is sealed, that they will be moving forward with legislation that I think we all need to brace ourselves; it’s going to come fast and furious. And so, most certainly, groups that have actively been working to protect the environment for decades are certainly gearing up. They see what’s coming and they’re preparing for a long, drawn-out fight.
SHARMINI PERIES: And one of the things that the mainstream media is not covering is all the droughts that are going on, and particularly the one in Bolivia that you actually wrote about. Just to end with, give us some of the catastrophes out there, like the drought in Bolivia that we should be hearing about from the media.
DAHR JAMAIL: Well, the entire country of Bolivia is in a state of drought emergency. More than half of its precincts are in a state of lack of water, where there are protests in the streets. President Evo Morales has fired a couple of people from his cabinet that he held responsible for not being better-prepared for what’s happening. In short, what’s happening is it’s the dry season in Bolivia right now, during which they rely on glaciers, melting glaciers, to get the bulk of their water, and especially in their major cities. Those glaciers are either vanishing or receding dramatically due to climate disruption. The warming temperatures being brought about by it. And so, in short, there are not enough glaciers, i.e., there’s not enough water, and you’re having riots in the streets now because people don’t have enough to drink. There are over 100,000 families that literally now just do not have water whatsoever, so the military has been brought out to drill emergency water wells, as well as transport, driving trucks around and move water from reservoirs where there is water, to the people that need it.
And I think this is an interesting thing to take note of, because this is the type of crisis in countries that we need to be prepared for that they were… rather come to expect that this is going to become the new normal as the dramatic impacts of climate disruption not only persist but continue to worsen around the planet.
SHARMINI PERIES: And also Venezuela is experiencing one of the greatest droughts that they have ever seen in recent history. Dahr, I thank you so much for joining us today. It has been a very informative discussion. Looking forward to having you back.
DAHR JAMAIL: My pleasure.
SHARMINI PERIES: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.