The British Royal family may no longer have power, but it still has influence. The royals do good works, provide attractions for tourists and can, when they put their focus on an issue, raise its profile and draw needed funding and public attention (as Princess Diana did with land mines and AIDS research).
Prince Charles, the seemingly perpetual heir to the throne, is nearly as old as President Trump, but the latter has done so little good and so much harm, one is forced to admit that Prince Charles is a far more admirable world figure. In particular, Charles’s serious study of, and attention to climate change has helped raise funds, interest millions in climate science, garnered international cooperation and helped elevate the issue. And, God bless him, he even tried to educate the Climate Change Denier In Chief.
The president left a 90-minute meeting this week with Charles, Prince of Wales, unconvinced that the climate is warming, which it is, according to overwhelming scientific consensus. The Earth’s average surface temperature in 2018 was the fourth-highest since 1880, when record-keeping began. That means that the past five years have been the warmest in recorded history.
But the president has other beliefs.
“I believe that there’s a change in weather, and I think it changes both ways,” he said in a wide-ranging interview with Piers Morgan on “Good Morning Britain” that aired Wednesday morning. “Don’t forget it used to be called global warming. That wasn’t working. Then it was called climate change. Now it’s actually called extreme weather, because with extreme weather, you can’t miss.”
Poor Charles will never get that 90 minutes of his life back. However, it does show that Trump is peculiar in showing off his ignorance, failing to recognize how bizarre he sounds to all but his followers. His contempt for science, for data itself, remains among his most self-destructive qualities — self-destructive for his own presidency (which now exists to serve his ego) and for the United States, whose global leadership is verging on nonexistent these days.
Even when he stumbles on half of a truth, he pours gallons of drivel on top, washing away the value of any point he might have been making. The Post reports that Trump “blamed China, India and Russia for polluting the environment and said the United States was responsible for ‘among the cleanest climates.’ Carbon dioxide emissions by the United States, the world’s second-largest emitter, rose an estimated 3.4 percent in 2018, according to findings published in January by the independent economic research firm Rhodium Group.”
The president never considers that we’d have more influence if we were a partner to the voluntary Paris climate accord than an outsider and the world’s environmental outcast. Likewise, Trump never imagines that reduction of carbon emissions (through green technology) is a net-plus to our own economy and health. In his Malthusian theory of the globe, we “lose” something by migrating to clean renewable energy — an absurd claim. (Since he likes the oil industry so much, he should ask industry leaders what they are investing in these days.)
Trump seems unaware that some of the biggest opponents of his pullout from the Paris accord were major U.S. industries, which are already transitioning to renewables. All he is worried about is the dwindling number of coal workers (down to about 50,000 now in the entire country), who understand all too well coal isn’t coming back. (For comparison, in January of this year, “Leisure and hospitality accounted for 74,000 new jobs created with education and health services as well as construction rounding out the top three sectors.”)
Like much of Trump’s thinking, his views on climate change are based on false information, conspiracy theories and misguided nostalgia for the economy of the 1950s. For advisers, he relies on cranks, know-nothings and rabid ideologues who are forced to run around disclaiming the government’s own fact-finding.
Trump remains utterly unconvinced that climate change exists, let alone is a serious threat, relishing his own ignorance and refusing to admit he might not know what the heck he is talking about. Sorry, Prince Charles, we share your utter exasperation.