Trump Voters, Hit by Storms, Conflicted on Climate

October 22, 2017



The White House said Monday that President Donald Trump has not altered his views on climate change, despite scientists’ warnings that Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, which recently ravaged portions of the United States, are evidence the warming global climate is making extreme weather worse.

“I don’t think think that’s changed,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Monday at the daily presidential briefing.

Associated Press:

A new Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll finds that 63 percent of Americans think climate change is happening and that the government should address it, and that two-thirds of Americans disapprove of the way Trump is handling the issue. Most Americans also think weather disasters are getting more severe, and believe global warming is a factor.

As the downpour from Hurricane Harvey stretched into its second day, with no end in sight, Joe Evans watched from the window of his home in the Jefferson County seat of Beaumont, and an unexpected sense of guilt overcame him: “What have we been doing to the planet for all of these years?”

Evans, a Republican, once ran unsuccessfully for local office. He ignored climate change, as he thought Republicans were supposed to do. But Harvey’s deluge left him wondering why. When he was young, discussions of the ozone layer were uncontroversial; now they’re likely to end in pitched political debate.

“I think it’s one of those games that politicians play with us,” he said, “to once again make us choose a side.”

Evans voted for Trump, but he’s frustrated with what he describes as the “conservative echo chamber” that dismisses climate change instead of trying to find a way to apply conservative principles to simultaneously saving the Earth and the economy. Even today, some Republicans in the county complain about Gore and the hypocrisy they see in elite liberals who jet around the world, carbon emissions trailing behind them, to push climate policies on blue-collar workers trying to keep refinery jobs so they can feed their families.

Evans isn’t sure if the disastrous run of weather will cause climate change to become a bigger priority for residents here, or if as memories fade talk of this issue will, too.

“I haven’t put so much thought into it that I want to go mobilize a bunch of people and march on Washington,” he said. “But it made me think enough about it that I won’t actively take part in denying it. We can’t do that anymore.”

Most in Texas didn’t believe climate change existed when Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University, began evangelizing about the issue years ago. Now studies estimate that 69 percent of Texans believe that the climate is changing, and 52 percent believe that has been caused by human activity. Most resistance she hears now is not with the science itself but over proposed solutions that mean government intrusion and regulation.

Jefferson County’s refineries produce 10 percent of the gasoline in the United States, 20 percent of diesel and half of the fuel used to fly commercial planes, said County Judge Jeff Branick, a Democrat who voted for Trump and then switched his party affiliation to Republican, in part because of his disagreement with the Democratic Party’s climate policies.

Branick doesn’t deny that climate change exists, but he calls himself a cheerleader for the petroleum industry and believes environmental policies are “job killers.”

John Sterman, a professor at MIT Sloan School of Management, said addressing climate change will invariably lead to gradual job losses in the fossil fuels industry. But communities have lost a dominant industry before, and those able to diversify can prosper. Jefferson County could look to the renewable energy industry, with jobs that require many of the skills refinery workers have, he said. Texas already produces more wind power than any other state.

Angela Lopez’s husband works in a refinery, so she understands the worry of the economic cost of addressing global warming. But her county is nicknamed “cancer alley” for its high levels of disease that residents have long attributed to living in the shadow of one of the largest concentrations of refineries in the world.

“It’s our livelihood, but it’s killing us,” Lopez said, standing in what used to be her dining room. Now her house in Beaumont is down to the studs. As Harvey’s floodwaters rose, she tried to save what she could. She piled the dresser drawers on the bed and perched the leather couch up on the coffee table. It did no good. The water didn’t stop until it reached the eaves, and the Lopezes lost everything they own.

When Wayne Christopher was a boy in Jefferson County, it got so hot he remembers frying eggs on the sidewalk. It has always been hot here, and there have always been hurricanes.

But it seems to him that something is different now. There is a palpable intensity in the air, in the haze that hangs over the interstate. The region has warmed about two degrees in his lifetime, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and annual rainfall has increased by about 7 inches on average. Christopher counts the number of times a beach road he’s driven on all his life has had to be rebuilt because the ocean overtook it.

“The sea keeps moving in — water rising, land disappearing or eroding or whatever you want to call it — it’s happening,” said Christopher, who is 66 now and retired after toiling more than 40 years for the railroad. “I think Mother Nature can come back, but there’s a point to where, if we just keep on and keep on, I don’t know if she can come back.”



5 Responses to “Trump Voters, Hit by Storms, Conflicted on Climate”

  1. ubrew12 Says:

    Conservative stubbornness on climate change = immovable object.
    Ocean heating (rate of which has doubled in the last 20 years) = irresistible force.

    “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right,
    Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.”

    • redskylite Says:

      Brilliant comment and reminder of a great song from 1973, when, incidentally, the effects of industrial chemicals on our ozone layer were first being noticed. At least we took note and action in them there days. I think it must be the increased atmospheric CO2 addling brains in the later 20th and early 21st century.

      “In 1973, the chemists Frank Sherwood Rowland and Mario Molina, who were then at the University of California, Irvine, began studying the impacts of CFCs in the Earth’s atmosphere. They discovered that CFC molecules were stable enough to remain in the atmosphere until they got up into the middle of the stratosphere where they would finally (after an average of 50–100 years for two common CFCs) be broken down by ultraviolet radiation releasing a chlorine atom. Rowland and Molina then proposed that these chlorine atoms might be expected to cause the breakdown of large amounts of ozone (O3) in the stratosphere.”

  2. indy222 Says:

    Liberals do it to themselves, when they finger-wag others to voluntarily lower their carbon footprint while jet’ing or otherwise living a more typical American carbon lifestyle. The solution? DON’T Guilt-trip others. Realize that voluntary actions make NO DIFFERENCE to climate, and halting climate change is supposed to be the goal (or did I get that wrong, and the goal is to look pius and holy to Republicans?). Virtue will take care of itself if we focus, like anyone in science does, on factual actions which make a DIFFERENCE, vs just posturing. Scientists and Gore can and should jet around if that’s what it takes to educate and pressure to get government policy to FORCE us ALL to drastically change lifestyle. It’s because what is actually necessary is SO much more drastic and painful than anyone wants to let on, that ONLY by being forced and knowing all others are being forced as well, that we can make the pain worthwhile. Private pain, local pain, not endured globally, is pointless pain. Worse, it’s pius and posturing pain, not inspiring to the very people you’re supposedly trying to impress by your Spartan carbon footprinting. Instead it infuriates them as all hypocrisy does, and should. We are disgusted by the Republicans for their pius posturing about “freedom” while they rape the Earth. We should know the feeling of disgust for hypocrisy. Don’t lay yourselves open to it.

    • J4Zonian Says:

      I’m caught between really agreeing with you and really disagreeing.

      Personal action is very important–for those who choose it–in integrating inner and outer lives, experimenting and learning, being seeds locally and parts of webs globally, and showing the way–that is, showing that lower energy zero carbon physically and emotionally regenerative lives can be lived even more happily than the unfulfilling lives most of the rich live now (globally rich, that is, including most people posting here. To be among the richest 15% of people on Earth you only have to have 4 things: a bed, a roof, clothes in a closet and food in a refrigerator.) People afraid of the life we must live must be shown how joyful it can be by people living it. Otherwise, they’ll never stop resisting. Education, demonstration, and psychotherapy are all crucial.

      But you’re absolutely right that personal action alone by those who care enough to make substantial changes in their lives won’t even be one hundred thousandth of what we need to save civilization and the millions of species threatened with extinction. We can’t let them commit conservatism by insisting only individuals exist. Only connected, feeling, coordinated political action, convelling (convincing/compelling) everyone to live responsibly in every way, will do it. No more bull in the US shop.

      We need a peaceful revolution to remove those from power who are making the decision to commit unparalleled, unimaginable mass murder-suicide-ecocide. A global climate mobilization of citizens, industry, agriculture, forestry. Nationalizing the fossil fuel industry to shut it down fast but coordinate it with the building of alternatives–efficiency, conservation, wiser lives, clean safe renewable energy sources. A comprehensive, compassionate, global plan to safely resettle, feed, house, clothe and employ usefully and fulfillingly every refugee from the effects of the lives of the rich. And coordinated plans to decide what can be saved and what has to be let go of. The grief from that, once people realize what they’ve done, is likely to be as paralyzing as the fear the oligarchy is feeling now, so we have to be ready; universal health care (actually, just global) including emotional care, will be crucial in allowing society to move beyond this stalemate created by a few very powerful psychotic psychopaths exploiting the fear, grief, rage, guilt, shame and unconsciousness of the rest.

      We have to find ways to show messengers like Gore, with his flying, are needed while also showing that way of life is untenable and must be left behind within a decade or less. We need to find ways to get the right wing to let go of their attachments and stop attacking what’s needed. Just like we build renewable energy with the last of the fossil fuel energy we use, like a chick growing out of embryo, we have to not just live the old life while creating the new but actually have the new life grow by absorbing the old life.

  3. “Evans, a Republican, once ran unsuccessfully for local office. He ignored climate change, as he thought Republicans were supposed to do. But Harvey’s deluge left him wondering why. When he was young, discussions of the ozone layer were uncontroversial; now they’re likely to end in pitched political debate.” Thankfully rationality dominated in the 80s’ and the ozone issue wasn’t turned into the circus climate change has been today by idiots. We’d only be venturing outside in the mornings and evenings with SPF 10000 plastered on an inch thick!

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