Trump’s record on COVID-19 is mixed, but on climate, it’s an abject failure
Anyone who is not sleeping through the 21st century ought to applaud John F. Kerry’s poignant reminder, on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, that the world is reeling not from one but from two calamities (“The parallels between the coronavirus and the climate crisis,” Opinion, April 22).
Coronavirus is with us now. Global warming is not only with us in devastating flooding, wildfires, storms, illness, economic distress, and other disasters. It will also wreak a vastly greater proportion of havoc for decades to come unless, as Kerry writes, we reverse course.
He notes the parallel in President Trump’s having termed both COVID-19 and climate change a “hoax.” But the parallel between Trump’s responses to the two crises goes only so far. The president’s record on COVID-19, though deplorably short-sighted and politically self-serving at times, has been mixed. He has reluctantly approved some forms of federal emergency relief. His response to the existential threat of climate change, however, has been an unmitigated failure of denial, neglect, and malfeasance. Nor has he indicated the slightest sign that he will reverse course.
Now can we finally embrace net-zero carbon economy?
Much appreciation to John F. Kerry for the thoughtful detailing of similarities between the current pandemic and the climate crisis. Yes, we must get to net-zero carbon emissions, and the time to be serious about this is now. And it is good news that millions of jobs can be created by transitioning to solar and other renewable energies.
Here are some questions: Can enough of us make the connection? This pandemic is terrible. So too will be the effects of a warming planet — they are terrible already. These effects will include other pandemics.
Can we generate the political will to adopt climate solutions? There must be a carbon fee, so that the fossil fuel companies pay for what they are causing. Carbon fee and dividend is an eloquent form of carbon pricing, lauded by leading economists.
Finally, come election time, can we realize the necessity of electing leaders who respect and act upon good science?
I think we can do this. We’re seeing resolve in action every day.
Science won’t help us if it’s not tied to a more equitable society
L. Rafael Reif argues the value of science to society by noting that it’s our best defense against threats like the pandemic and that it can forewarn us of crises in the future (“Has COVID-19 finally taught us how to listen to science?” Opinion, April 22) It would be hard to disagree with him there.
His final point is that we need “science-centered national leadership” to find our way forward. That’s not enough. Governing should be guided by science, but if it’s unmoored from a commitment to a more equitable society, science compounds our problems. Recall that it was science, married to technology, that gave us the industrialized world that is the cause of global environmental degradation. Science creates the need for more science in an unending spiral.
The emerging consensus is that the economic models that worked to build this affluent society have become obsolete. On this now-crowded and warming planet, it’s time to correct the stark imbalances in wealth, income, and power.
Engaging science in defense of the planet’s ecological boundaries is one half of the solution; structuring society so that the most powerful are not deeply invested in a ruinous status quo is the other.
In balking at puny gas tax hike, lawmakers are making huge mistake
Re “Remember that gas tax increase? Lawmakers aren’t so sure now” (Metro, April 22): I do remember that I was underwhelmed originally, because the prospective increase of 5 cents per gallon would have been too low to change behavior. Now our state legislators are punting on this puny tax increase, citing the current economic hardship wrought by the coronavirus. This is a huge mistake. The additional cost to each individual would be very small, while the aggregate benefits of preventing additional premature deaths from air pollution, wildfires, and superstorms are priceless.
A vast body of scientific evidence indicates that it is already well past the optimum time to drastically cut emissions. The longer we wait to take significant action, the worse the consequences will be. With oil prices near historic lows, this is exactly the time to raise the gas tax.