The Trumpocene

by Judith Curry

Finding common ground in the Age of Trump.

Alan Longhurst sent an interesting article (in French) that was recently published in LeMonde (english translation year-1-of-the-trumpocene).

Here is what caught my attention:

At a time when most scientists think that the Earth has entered a new geological epoch – the anthropocene – characterised by the influence of a single species (ours) on the major biogeochemical cycles, perhaps we should consider a new terminology?  So, welcome to the ‘trumpocene‘ where the future depends not on the decisions of a single species, but on a single member of that species: Donald Trump. Unless, of course, this new chapter turns out to be just a sub-period of the anthropocene (a ‘stage’ as the geologists have it). In which case, it will be better to talk of the ‘trumpenian“.

The author Stephan Foucart voices the following concerns about Trump:

The “Trumpocene” will leave other footprints, too. Environmental policies are based on scientific knowledge, notably acquired by institutions such as NASA, NOAA and particularly the EPA: one of the primary preoccupation of the Trump administration will be to constrain as far as possible the acquisition of that knowledge.

And that this is going to happen is not in doubt. In his transition team, Mr Trump has handed the destiny of EPA to Myron Ebel who has had connections to Philip Morris and is also associated with the Comparative Enterprise Institute – one of the think-tanks that has contributed most to the attack on environmental science, and to drafting and distributing climatosceptic propaganda.

Placing the federal scientific establishments in the hands of such a person makes it perfectly clear that Trump’s ambition is to transform them as far as possible into institutions charged with fabricating facts, and selecting or changing them according to the wishes of the director.

So the war on the environment declared by Mr Trump risks not only aggrevating climate change: the “trumpocene” signals the start of an Orwellian distopia. 

In my opinion, Foucart is overly alarmed about the Age of Trump.

From ClimateChangeNewsLast year Trump’s pick to either lead or play a key role in dismantling the Environmental Protection Agency, Myron Ebell, told Climate Home he hoped the next president would “not rip up” the Paris Agreement. “I hope he or she will submit it to the US senate for its advice and consent,” he said.

Submitting the Paris Agreement to the Senate for a vote is exactly the right thing to do.

In terms of how much harm/good one individual as President can actually do, well we have some idea of this from President Obama, who amassed more power in the Presidency than anyone in recent history, particularly with regards to climate change and environmental regulations.  Now we are seeing how quickly all those executive orders might come undone in the Trump administration.

So whether we will have a Trumpocene, with long term impact, versus a 4-8 year trumpenium, depends on the extent that Trump can build broad political will for his proposals (as opposed to executive orders).

Finding common ground

There are some strong objections to Trump, that go well beyond his policies: some regard him as  autocratic, bigoted, vulgar, ignorant etc.

Ted Nordhaus of the Breakthrough Institute wrote a provocative article What is to be done? Trump and Ecomodernism. This article is receiving a lot of buzz in the twitosphere, and it speaks to the dilemma faced by people that not only disagree with Trump’s policies, but are concerned whether he is fully committed to democratic norms.

Trumpism, in any event, is likely to redraw the fault lines of American politics in ways that are difficult to anticipate. And so for ecomodernists, and fellow travelers, this moment offers opportunity and peril.

Are we taking pragmatic actions to encourage the best impulses of the new administration or are we legitimizing something much darker? The choice is not one that will be presented to us all at once or that we will make only once. Rather, we will be presented with it over and over again.

However we make those choices, it will be incumbent upon us all to do everything that we can to strengthen civil society, to fight for democratic norms and resist their erosion while simultaneously finding ways to turn down the rhetoric that has rendered so much of our civic life increasingly contentious and irreconcilable. We will also need to ask some hard questions of our own agendas and political commitments.

Here is hoping that we all make those choices well and that together, we can find new possibilities for social, economic, and environmental progress in this moment of fear and uncertainty.

The New York Times has an article along similar lines:   Senate Democrats’ Surprising Strategy: Trying to Align With Trump.  Excerpt:

Congressional Democrats, divided and struggling for a path from the electoral wilderness, are constructing an agenda to align with many proposals of President-elect Donald J. Trump that put him at odds with his own party.

On infrastructure spending, child tax credits, paid maternity leave and dismantling trade agreements, Democrats are looking for ways they can work with Mr. Trump and force Republican leaders to choose between their new president and their small-government, free-market principles. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, elected Wednesday as the new Democratic minority leader, has spoken with Mr. Trump several times, and Democrats in coming weeks plan to announce populist economic and ethics initiatives they think Mr. Trump might like.

Democrats, who lost the White House and made only nominal gains in the House and Senate, face a profound decision after last week’s stunning defeat: Make common cause where they can with Mr. Trump to try to win back the white, working-class voters he took from them, or resist at every turn, trying to rally their disparate coalition in hopes that discontent with an ineffectual new president will benefit them in 2018.

JC reflections

I honestly don’t know what to expect from a Trump administration, and it may be that Trump doesn’t know either.

Ted Nordhaus poses a question that is profoundly important for those who find Trump appalling to consider:

Are we taking pragmatic actions to encourage the best impulses of the new administration or are we legitimizing something much darker?

The only rational option is to take pragmatic actions to encourage the best impulses of the new administration.  President Trump deserves a chance to succeed.  The onus is on those who wish to influence policy to find some common ground on policies that will move the country forward.

Lets see how this plays out.  Better yet, lets try to find some constructive ways to make the Trump administration a successful one in terms of making America better.  4-8 years is too long for half of the population to just keep throwing tantrums — lets try to help  the Trumpenium work.



Filed under: Policy, Politics

Judith Curry

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