Donald Trump may be a fool but he’s no idiot. If he were an idiot, his reaction to his administration’s latest dire climate change report might be more understandable.
The word “idiot” historically carries overtones of a lack of intelligence.
A “fool”, on the other hand, is seen to lack judgment, or to be acting imprudently for entertainment.
Trump does indeed have a university degree – he is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Finance.
So, he is definitely no idiot. But he has to be a fool to dismiss the Fourth National Climate Assessment out of hand – having by his own admission only read parts of it.
The report, which was compiled with the help of US government agencies and 300 leading climate scientists warns of the potentially catastrophic impact of climate change and says it will cost the US hundreds of billions of dollars annually.
Trump’s reaction: “I don’t believe it.”
The US president has on at least 20 occasions dismissed the idea of global warming or climate change.
Eight years ago, he tweeted: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.”
And confusing climate and weather, as only a fool would, he tweeted last week: “Brutal and Extended Cold Blast could shatter ALL RECORDS - Whatever happened to Global Warming?”
How to explain the White House incumbent’s total disregard for scientific evidence that unless nations drastically reduce the amount of greenhouses they pump into the atmosphere, the planet will warm to a point of no return, with terrifying consequences?
His administration’s pro-fossil fuels agenda and support for the oil, gas and coal industries goes some way towards explaining his constant dismissal of the scientific evidence.
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According to the independent Center for Public Integrity, the oil, coal and gas interests collectively poured millions of dollars into Trump’s inaugural fund and into federal lobbying interests.
In return, Trump’s administration has moved to ease or remove a slew of restrictions on the coal, oil and gas industries, including rolling back Barack Obama’s signature climate change policy, the Clean Power Plan, which aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
In doing so, Trump is making good on his pledge during the 2016 US presidential election to bring back coal jobs. Populist that he is, he was often pictured holding “Trump digs coal” signs during rallies in coal mining states.
In the short-term policies that ease the limits on greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants may have the potential to offer a reprieve to an estimated 300 generating stations.
But the real reasons for the loss of coal mining jobs in the US is not solely linked to limits on emissions, but rather to automation and to the exploitation of other fossil fuels – oil and especially gas.
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Jobs lost to automation just aren’t coming back, no matter what Trump says.
Meanwhile, the oil and gas industries in the US have ramped up production dramatically and both are now major exporters. In the past three years, exports of crude oil have quadrupled while exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) have increased 35-fold, according to the US Energy Information Administration.
According to activist group Greenpeace, coal is the single largest contributor to global warming. But if you are a fool, and don’t believe that global warming is real, why wouldn’t you push for more and more coal to be taken out the ground and burned in pollution-spewing power plants – especially if it gets job-desperate voters to back you for second term?
Other recent manifestations of Trump’s foolishness:
But even he has his limits and claims that he is a flat-earther were found to be false.
A news website in December 2016 quoted the then president-elect as saying: “I fly a lot, and I mean a lot. No one flies more than me. Listen, I own a jet. I own a 757, beautiful plane, it’s the best plane! If the world were round, believe me, I would know!”
Fact-checking group Snopes concluded that the article was a hoax – or as Trump would say, “fake news”.
With flat-earthers widely being seen as crackpots, it is in any case highly unlikely that the Trump man would align himself with them.
He may be a fool, but he’s not stupid.