The press is currently engaged in an investigation of kinds about what Donald Trump currently believes about climate change.
Does he, as he has previously claimed, believe it is “a total, and very expensive, hoax!”? Or has he modified his earlier views?
On Friday, White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, claimed, “I have not had an opportunity to have that discussion.”
Inside the White House in recent days, aside from the ever present issue of what everyone needs to do to avoid getting thrown in jail, the issue of Trump’s statement on Paris must have been the center of many discussions during which Spicer was present. He might be afraid of asking questions, but he hasn’t lacked the opportunity to learn what Trump and his closest advisers think.
At the same time, we can confidently assume that during the period leading up to Trump’s “decision,” he was not engaged in an intense analysis of climate science and strategies for mitigating the global rise in greenhouse gases. That would have gone beyond Trump’s severely limited intellectual capacities and far beyond his level of interest in the issue.
What we do know is what Trump said on Thursday afternoon:
… the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord … but begin negotiations to reenter either the Paris Accord or a really entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers. So we’re getting out. But we will start to negotiate, and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair. And if we can, that’s great. And if we can’t, that’s fine.
What’s clear from this statement is that the heart of the issue for Trump is the cost. It’s all about money.
While Trump’s ignorance is perhaps unfathomable, we do know this much about how he views transactions: they involve an exchange of money. You pay something; you get something. And if you’re great at making deals, you get something that’s worth more than you paid for it.
If Trump believes that climate change is a hoax, then negotiating to reenter the Paris accord would be like negotiating how much you’re willing to pay for a building that doesn’t exist. The only fair deal would be no deal — there would be nothing to negotiate.
Needless to say, Trump’s proposition that the U.S. might renegotiate the accord is itself a hoax — he and the rest of the world knows this isn’t going to happen.
The issue here does not actually revolve around beliefs. It’s not a question of who is convinced or remains skeptical about the established conclusions of climate science.
Instead, it’s like this:
A chain-smoker talks to his doctor and his doctor tells him: “You need to stop smoking. These cigarettes are killing you.”
In response, the smoker has little interest in whether he was given sound medical advice. He simply knows that he enjoys smoking and has no intention of quitting.
For Trump and other addicts of the fossil-fuel lifestyle, the question of whether they are killing the planet is for them of little interest. All they care about is their attachment to their own lifestyle — to hell with humanity and the fabric of life on Earth.
The idea of exchanging a Suburban for a Prius is so offensive to their sense of material entitlement, it is for them immaterial what kind of rationale or what indisputable facts might justify this kind of lifestyle change.