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We’re often told that the reason the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, is so dangerous is that he is a brilliant political chess master, always thinking several moves ahead. Yet there is reason to believe that the real reason Putin is so dangerous is that he is no chess master at all. His latest skirmish with Ukraine, this time in the Sea of Azov, is certainly evidence that for Russia, chaos reigns. Having previously illegally annexed Crimea and launched a bloody shadow war in the east of Ukraine – both in 2014, a busy year for Russian aggression – Russia has only now officially acknowledged opening fire on Ukrainian forces.
One of the consequences of being at war while not declaring war is that responsibility for any escalation becomes a murky business. It can be hard to understand which of the factions scurrying around Putin’s throne can be held accountable for the Sea of Azov mess – all we can say for certain is that Putin continues to rule by signal, which means that officials, including military officials, who intend to curry favour with the Russian president can and do take the initiative into their own hands.
The Trump administration is, it goes without saying, deeply anti-science. In fact, it’s anti-objective reality. But its control of the government remains limited; it didn’t extend far enough to prevent the release of the latest National Climate Assessment, which details current and expected future impacts of global warming on the United States.
True, the report was released on Black Friday, clearly in the hope that it would get lost in the shuffle. The good news is that the ploy didn’t work.
The assessment basically confirms, with a great deal of additional detail, what anyone following climate science already knew: Climate change poses a major threat to the nation, and some of its adverse effects are already being felt. For example, the report, written before the latest California disaster, highlights the growing risks of wildfire in the Southwest; global warming, not failure to rake the leaves, is why the fires are getting ever bigger and more dangerous.
see Eugene Robinson: The world is on fire — and Trump is playing with matches
Climate change is happening “primarily as a result of human activities” and its damaging impacts — severe droughts, deadly wildfires, monster tropical storms, punishing heat waves — “are already being felt in the United States.” That’s not me talking. It’s the conclusion of the U.S. government, in an alarming new report the Trump administration doesn’t want you to read.
It can be no accident that the 1,656-page “Impacts, Risks and Adaptation” section of the latest blue-ribbon National Climate Assessment was released on the day after Thanksgiving, a graveyard of a news cycle when many Americans are focused on turkey sandwiches and Black Friday deals.
The report provides stunning new evidence for what we already knew: President Trump’s climate-change policy — ignore, obfuscate, delay, deny — amounts to environmental vandalism on a tragic scale.
Seven years ago, a former aide to Ralph Reed — who also worked, briefly, for Paul Manafort — published a tawdry, shallow memoir that is also one of the more revealing political books I’ve ever read. Lisa Baron was a pro-choice, pro-gay rights, hard-partying Jew who nonetheless made a career advancing the fortunes of the Christian right. She opened her book with an anecdote about performing oral sex on a future member of the George W. Bush administration during the 2000 primary, which, she wrote, “perfectly summed up my groupie-like relationship to politics at that time — I wanted it, I worshiped it, and I went for it.”
It’s not exactly a secret that politics is full of amoral careerists lusting — literally or figuratively — for access to power. Still, if you’re interested in politics because of values and ideas, it can be easier to understand people who have foul ideologies than those who don’t have ideologies at all. Steve Bannon, a quasi-fascist with delusions of grandeur, makes more sense to me than Anthony Scaramucci, a political cipher who likes to be on TV. I don’t think I’m alone. Consider all the energy spent trying to figure out Ivanka Trump’s true beliefs, when she’s shown that what she believes most is that she’s entitled to power and prestige.
Republicans’ latest excuse for ignoring climate change — like all their other excuses — gets the problem exactly backward.
Last week, on Black Friday, the Trump administration tried to bury a congressionally mandated report on the consequences of climate change. This nonpartisan assessment, produced by scientists across 13 federal agencies and departments, detailed the observed changes in the climate so far — and the dire and deadly risks that lie ahead if we remain on the same course.
These include more frequent and intense natural disasters (hurricanes, droughts, floods, wildfires); huge public-health costs (worse air quality, greater transmission of disease through insects, food, water); and devastating economic damage (to infrastructure, agriculture, fisheries, tourism).
The report refrained from making specific policy recommendations. But it did press the need for policymakers to do something to substantially curb greenhouse-gas emissions.