Another Trump assault on science as fires and pandemic rage

As wildfires swept across the West, causing dozens of deaths, destroying property and polluting the air with smoke, Trump abruptly shut down an official who warned that climate change was fueling the flames — by saying the weather would soon start “getting cooler.” Even by his own standards, it was one of the President’s most shocking comments on global warming — which he has previously referred to as a “hoax.”

New reports emerged, meanwhile, of the President’s spinners trying to cook the facts on the pandemic, about which he misled the nation and which will soon claim its 200,000th American partly as a result. Trump continued to flout epidemiological guidelines by cramming people into indoor events that risked spreading Covid-19, exacerbating disbelief and extreme frustration among medical experts. At a Latino outreach event, the President was the only person in a packed room who was socially distanced — granting himself protection that his campaign stops are denying attendees.

‘I don’t think the science knows’

Trump baselessly questions climate science during California wildfire briefing

These were just the latest occasions when a President who harbors bizarre theories on health, the environment and other issues — often distilled from conservative media conspiracy theorists — has turned away from the world-leading science and expertise that solidified US global leadership.

For years, Trump has rejected the counsel of his own intelligence services and preferred propaganda from US adversary Russia. He pushed discredited therapies for Covid-19, such as hydroxychloroquine, that federal regulators spurned. His Environmental Protection Agency has sent a wrecking ball through regulations meant to save the planet. He withdrew from the Paris climate accord to accommodate his embrace of fossil fuel polluters and has overturned fuel efficiency standards for cars.

But Trump’s visit to California for a briefing on the fires that have consumed more than 3 million acres in a record year and have also ravaged other Western states was perhaps his most stunning climate change intervention yet.

Trump doubled down on his theory that a failure to rake forest floors was responsible for creating tinderbox conditions. He cited an unnamed foreign leader who he claimed said they had mitigated their “explosive trees” problem by managing forest floors.

A consensus of scientific evidence has found that while forest management is important, longer dry seasons and warmer weather, including at night, are worsening forest fires in places like California. A study last year in the journal Earth’s Future found that between 1972 and 2018, California saw “a fivefold increase in annual burned area” and that “increased summer forest‐fire area very likely occurred due to increased atmospheric aridity caused by warming.”

Trump has no time for such science. After Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom acknowledged there needed to be more brush clearance, he also asked the President to “respect” the scientific consensus that “climate change is real.”

When another local official told Trump it was time to take “our head out of the sand” by relying on the forest management excuse, the President pounced.

“It’ll start getting cooler. You just watch,” Trump responded.

“I wish science agreed with you,” the official replied.

“I don’t think science knows, actually,” Trump said, closing the official down.

The exchange was a flagrant example of how the President simply dismisses any information that does not fit his preconceived idea of a problem. While many of Trump’s opinions do seem uninformed and not shaped by the almost limitless resources of the federal government, there is also a clear political motivation underscoring his responses.

The President has fixed priorities: For instance, promoting big oil companies. Accepting that climate change is real would require him to take some steps to address it. Since he is loath to do so, the President finds that ignoring the problem — and using his propagandistic Twitter feed, which is a gusher of misinformation and falsehoods — suits him better.

Trump’s dismissal of science is a power move

Rejecting the advice of highly educated scientists and expert government bureaucrats also sits well with the President’s political image as an outsider and scourge of elite political, academic and scientific establishments. It helps to solidify his bond with supporters, who prize that image and may themselves share Trump’s reluctance to accept changes to traditional lifestyles — which a national effort to combat global warming, for instance, might entail.

As such, Trump’s dismissal of science and fact is not just a personality trait, it’s also a key factor in the method he uses to build, wield and cling to power.

A similar sequence of events has played out during the pandemic — a once-in-a-century disaster…

Read More: Another Trump assault on science as fires and pandemic rage

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