Laugh now at Trump’s follies, but there’s nothing funny about a rapidly warming Earth
Robert Delaney says the comedy of rapper Kanye West’s fawning over Trump last week may be short-lived amid the dire warnings in the latest IPCC report on climate change
For those of us resigned to the lunacy of US President Donald Trump’s antics, last week was either comic relief, a harbinger of doom, or both if you’re good at compartmentalising thoughts.
It’s understandable if you wanted to focus on comedy. For that, you had an unhinged Kanye West fawning before Trump, spouting lines like: “Let’s stop worrying about the future, all we have is today … Trump is on his hero’s journey right now.”
Once a powerful and creative force in the music world, with brilliant crossover hits spun off from his triple-platinum 2005 album Late Registration, West must be aching for the relevance he lost, probably as much as Trump needs the blaring affirmation of his frequent political rallies.
The Trump-West exchange made great material for late-night show host Jimmy Kimmel, the cast of Saturday Night Live and other comics because those of us able to indulge in a good laugh while shutting down the part of our brain that recognises how perverted American governance has become could laugh at the spectacle of a black man professing “love” for the most overtly racist US president since Calvin Coolidge.
Watch: Kanye West praises Trump at White House meeting
Trump points to historically low black unemployment numbers in the US as proof of his concern for the African-American community, but strength in this metric is a consequence of faster economic growth, for which Trump deserves at least some credit, and is in no way tied to efforts devised specifically to address the economic challenges black Americans face.
And you don’t need to be an economist to know that most of the benefits of stronger growth under Trump will accrue to the wealthiest Americans.
Better jobs figures can’t erase the equivalence Trump asserted between militant white supremacists in last year’s deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the protesters who came out to face down fascism. By praising Trump, West supported this contention. Hilarious.
If you managed to laugh your way through that, you might be numb enough to ignore the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Trump’s non-acknowledgement of what the world’s leading climate scientists see as major civilisational disruption within most of our lifetimes.
Watch: Extreme weather events are on the rise
When Trump announced Washington’s secession from the Paris climate accord a few months into his term, he said that Washington’s commitments would cost the nation US$3 trillion in lost gross domestic product and 6.5 million industrial jobs.
Our problem is not how costly the commitments are. Americans would be lucky if that’s all the country would need to sacrifice to avert the cataclysmic flooding, droughts and food shortages that, scientists say, rising global temperatures will spark.
The numbers Trump carts out to win support for his approach to climate change are ridiculous because, according to the IPCC, the costs will be much higher.
The report is “telling us we need to reverse emissions trends and turn the world economy on a dime”, The New York Times quoted Myles Allen, an Oxford University climate scientist and an author of the report, as saying.
To limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the report said, greenhouse pollution must fall by 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030, and 100 per cent by 2050. The use of coal as an electricity source must also drop – from about 40 per cent now to between 1 and 7 per cent. At the same time, the use of renewable energy would have to increase, from about 20 per cent of electricity grids now to as much as 67 per cent.
Trump and his administration, which has made support for coal and other fossil fuels a priority, is determined to do the opposite of what scientists are recommending.
And while Trump was clowning around with his pal Kanye, a hurricane that defied meteorologists’ expectations in terms of its destructive power tore through inland communities in a way that’s unusual for such storms. It was another data point supporting scientists’ warnings that warmer ocean temperatures are producing deadlier storms.
Given our political reality of a corporatised world and a Republican Party funded by the fossil fuel industry, West was right when he said “Let’s stop worrying about the future”.
Go ahead and buy a gas-guzzling SUV. We’re likely too late to avert the hell that Mother Nature will unleash on us for our inability to address the world’s most pressing issue.
Robert Delaney is the Post's US bureau chief, based in New York