Home Energy and Environment “Seek Peace While Preparing for War”: Going to/after Trump about Climate Change

“Seek Peace While Preparing for War”: Going to/after Trump about Climate Change


This is the first sequel to the opening statement of this series, which laid out this basic idea:

In this extremely dangerous moment in our nation’s history, we owe it to ourselves and our posterity to seek best-case scenarios with the new president, rather than merely assuming that all that we fear will come to pass. Because we have good reason to fear the worst, we also need to prepare to fight this dreadful new president to protect all those things that are vital to our values and our interests.What this calls for is moves that simultaneously test for the possibility of peace, and that also — failing that — position us advantageously for political war.

That strategy is applied, below, to the issue of climate change. For surely, with science telling us that climate change may be the biggest threat to our species in our history, and with Trump already moving in an absolutely calamitous direction on the issue, this is a matter on which we should strive for the best while being committed never to surrender to the worst.


Climate change deniers come in two main varieties: the corrupt and the ignorant.

The corrupt are people who know the truth of what the scientists are saying, but choose out of greed and/or ambition to sacrifice the future of our planet to serve the interests of the fossil fuel industries.

If Donald Trump is one of these corrupt deniers, then there is no chance for peace, and we will be compelled to fight him, to use Elizabeth Warren’s recent mantra, “every step of the way.”

But if Donald Trump is ignorant, then it is at least possible that if his ignorance were to be replaced by greater understanding, he might be induced to take a different path. And with Trump, who has displayed stunning ignorance on a great many issues, it seems to be a real possibility that he really doesn’t know what science has so clearly established. Although he may be not only ignorant but ineducable, the possibility of education should at least be tested.

So the “seek peace” part of the strategy raises the question: is there a way that Trump’s (presumed) ignorance on climate change might be dispelled?

Here’s what I propose as a possible way:

Assemble a delegation consisting of some of the world’s most outstanding and prestigious scientists — presumably Nobel Prize winners, perhaps a half dozen in number — accompanied by, say, three of the world’s greatest climate scientists. In other words, a delegation that could present itself, and be seen by the public, as “the Voice of Science,” and “the Voice of Science on Climate Change.”

(I would hope that any scientist worth his or her salt would be willing to participate, the stakes are that huge, the urgency that pressing.)

Have this group begin with a public request for an audience with the President-Elect.

Their statement in which this request is made would, of course, call attention to the vital importance of this issue, and how crucial it is that a person shouldering the responsibilities of the American presidency understands fully the nature of the crisis we face. And so they request a chance to discuss with the President-Elect what science can tell us about what is happening on our planet, and what is at stake in the policy course the nation takes.

Either these eminent people — representing the Voice of Science — will be granted such a meeting with Trump or they will not. (Given the people around Trump, one must guess it’s more likely that they will not.)

If Trump refuses to meet with this delegation, then the war begins.

Two salvos come to mind. First, from the delegation: a statement — again delivered to get maximal media attention — that denounces Trump’s refusal in whatever are the terms that will be both appropriate and damaging to Trump in his intransigence. And second, Elizabeth Warren should step up onto center stage to take him to challenge him on this issue in the powerful ways for which she has already displayed considerable talent.

If Trump does meet with the delegation, here is an approach that might be effective: the delegation might make a pitch to Trump that appeals to his vanity.

They could propose to the President-Elect that he could secure his place in history by launching what might be called “Trump’s Manhattan Project.” Just as the United States accomplished extraordinary things (at Los Alamos, in the Manhattan Project) during World War II, drawing on the brilliance of its scientists and engineers, so also now, Donald Trump as president can harness that same great American pool of talent to meet the major challenges posed by climate change: create the technologies of a clean energy future, and devise the ways by which the United States can lead the world in making a smooth and speedy transition to that future.

If the meeting occurs, but Trump does not deviate from the path he’s already begun down (I need not enumerate the worrisome things he’s already done since the election), then we are back to the war footing. The delegation issues an appropriately damning statement. And Elizabeth Warren goes after Trump in whatever way will best turn the American public against Trump and his climate change policies.

  • True Blue

    Thank you for such a thoughtful, researched, and detailed analysis as well as suggestions. We’re fortunate to have great contributors here on Blue Virginia; on occasion bearingdrift has a worthy viewpoint, a far cry from the screeds and falsifications on bullelephant. Maybe that’s why “tea readers” are now making frequent visits to our progressive and pragmatic blog, with links to important state and national journalistic sites. What’s going to happen if the only news we can get is Bannon’s state run propaganda?

    • David Dickinson

      I resemble that remark. Don’t worry, I won’t hang out long (although I do read the articles without comment). Normally, I go local but loudounprogress has practically no interaction any more. Unlike you True Blue, I don’t live in an echo chamber.

      I did pop in to see how the Dems are handling the loss. Not well. But the denial is even more astounding. No personal responsibility whatsoever. It is all someone else’s fault. Comey is the new George Bush.

      “Climate change deniers come in two main varieties: the corrupt and the ignorant.” Keep up the name calling. I’m sure you will win plenty of elections by continuing to alienate people.

      • Andy Schmookler

        Well, you do raise one good point, Mr. Dickinson: the goal is certainly not to alienate people, but to move them in a constructive way. (BTW, do you think your message here will have a beneficial, non-alienating effect. Or is alienating people OK by you?)

        So a question for you on that score. First, let us take it as a given that when it comes to a scientific question — such as “What is happening to the earth’s climate, and how might that impact human civilization?” — we should seek the best available answers from the scientists?

        Do you accept that premise?

        If so, then the next question would be: since there are a whole lot of people who, for whatever reasons, refuse to believe what the scientists are telling us, and who have proceeded to elect a president who also rejects the science, what is the most effective way of moving those people toward acknowledging the reality the scientists are announcing, and of avoiding alienating them in the process?

        • David Dickinson

          Andy, here are some comments.
          1. Personally, I’m not convinced that a warmer earth is necessarily a bad thing. Is there more life in the tropics or the polar regions? As the population of the earth increases, wouldn’t more arable land be a good thing?
          2. Without any influence from humans, the last ice age had glaciers that covered the earth down to Pennsylvania only 10,000 years ago. Glaciers have been receding ever since and there was no industrial age to cause the ice to recede. They continue to recede today. The earth warms and cools in a natural cycle.
          3. Speaking for a larger segment of the conservative side, most don’t believe the scientists are honest and that is the crux of the matter. Between those that destroy their data and those that suckle on the teat of government grants or work for the government directly, they are seen as having a distinct bias. Simply put, they aren’t trusted.
          The most effective way would be for academia to return to being a neutral arbiter of data.

          • Andy Schmookler

            I find your response to be highly problematic, Mr. Dickinson, for what it says, though not explicitly, is that you reject that premise I proposed: namely, that for answers to scientific questions, we should turn to the scientists.

            Presumably you know that the science has by this point created near unanimity on certain points. Among those points would be a strong refutation of the position that you assert: that a warmer earth might not be a bad thing.

            There are two main problems, then, with what you have written here:

            1) You seem to have decided that you’re in a position to endorse — on a scientific question — that over 99% of the experts in the relevant scientific field reject. I cannot imagine on what basis you feel able to put your position ahead of theirs. Do you do the same with respect to what astronomers, particle physicists, and investigators of DNA have to say?

            2) You imply that the climate scientists who are giving us these warnings are not being “neutral arbiters of data.” Is it your belief that these thousands of scientists, working in nations across the world, over the course now of several decades, have come to their conclusions in some other way than in being impartial interpreters of the evidence?

            Or is it your position that if some branch of science happens to discover that humankind is heading toward a great calamity, their “neutrality” in reaching that conclusion should also enforce upon them the neutrality of failing to issue a warning to the rest of us of the great danger that lies ahead of us if we don’t take corrective action?

            Would you also want astronomers who discovered a large asteroid heading out way to keep their mouths shut?

          • Bottom line: if you deny overwhelming, powerful, clear scientific consensus (in this case about man-made global warming, ,but could be evolution or anything else) because of your ideological predispositions, you are not going to be convinced by reason, facts, or anything else. I do admire your perseverance, though, Andy. 🙂

          • Andy Schmookler

            It is indeed strange. The idea that smart people can be wrong is taken to be an answer to my asking on what basis he feels able to say he is more right than an entire scientific field.

            “The hysteria is seen as a power grab.” I do not know of a single instance in all the history of science where thousands of scientists decided to stir up hysteria in order to abet some power grab.

            But there are many, many instances where a powerful, extremely rich industry has worked to mislead people about the dangers of its products in order to protect their profits.

            Tobacco and asbestos are two instances. Fossil fuel companies are of course — as has been quite well documented — is another.

            Given my own upbringing, in which a respect for the truth was one of the greatest values I was taught, and have lived by, it is difficult to know how to deal — constructively, and not in a way that creates alienation — with people who cannot be convinced by evidence or logic, but who adopt their beliefs on some very different basis. .

            We can of course give up on such people, rather than being persevering. But, as I’ve been saying for a very long time, it is hard to see how America can be healthy if a great many of our people are detached from reality.

            And now the election of Donald Trump shows just how dangerous it would be to just accept that this is the way it is in America henceforth.

          • David Dickinson

            Since you are such an astute disciple of logic, then you are certain to know that you can not prove a negative. As such, it is incumbent upon you to convince others of the existence of global climate change.
            But don’t bother. Because, honestly, I couldn’t care less about global climate change. My original point was that Democrats are unable to convince people to join their various causes. This string reflects that original premise in spades.

          • David Dickinson

            You asked, “what is the most effective way of moving those people toward acknowledging the reality the scientists are announcing”?

            The answer is that you need to develop a greater degree of trust. You don’t have to. You can keep getting pummeled in elections to the point of irrelevance. That is your prerogative.

            “Presumably you know that the science has by this point created near unanimity on certain points” You mean, just like the pollsters were in this last election? And, yet, you wonder why people don’t believe when all the “experts” are sitting in their echo chambers ringing their own gongs. If this past election teaches you anything, it is that all the smart people together can be very, very wrong.

            “Do you do the same with respect to what astronomers, particle physicists, and investigators of DNA have to say?” Too many rabbit holes there.

            “humankind is heading toward a great calamity” Really? Sea levels rose 1mm. Run for your lives!!!!! But that brings up another reason for disbelief. The hysteria is seen as a power grab.