Column by Andy Schmookler
This is the first sequel to the opening statement of this series, which laid out this basic idea:
In this extremely dangerous moment in our nation’s history, we owe it to ourselves and our posterity to seek best-case scenarios with the new president, rather than merely assuming that all that we fear will come to pass. Because we have good reason to fear the worst, we also need to prepare to fight this dreadful new president to protect all those things that are vital to our values and our interests.What this calls for is moves that simultaneously test for the possibility of peace, and that also — failing that — position us advantageously for political war.
That strategy is applied, below, to the issue of climate change. For surely, with science telling us that climate change may be the biggest threat to our species in our history, and with Trump already moving in an absolutely calamitous direction on the issue, this is a matter on which we should strive for the best while being committed never to surrender to the worst.
The corrupt are people who know the truth of what the scientists are saying, but choose out of greed and/or ambition to sacrifice the future of our planet to serve the interests of the fossil fuel industries.
If Donald Trump is one of these corrupt deniers, then there is no chance for peace, and we will be compelled to fight him, to use Elizabeth Warren’s recent mantra, “every step of the way.”
But if Donald Trump is ignorant, then it is at least possible that if his ignorance were to be replaced by greater understanding, he might be induced to take a different path. And with Trump, who has displayed stunning ignorance on a great many issues, it seems to be a real possibility that he really doesn’t know what science has so clearly established. Although he may be not only ignorant but ineducable, the possibility of education should at least be tested.
So the “seek peace” part of the strategy raises the question: is there a way that Trump’s (presumed) ignorance on climate change might be dispelled?
Here’s what I propose as a possible way:
Assemble a delegation consisting of some of the world’s most outstanding and prestigious scientists — presumably Nobel Prize winners, perhaps a half dozen in number — accompanied by, say, three of the world’s greatest climate scientists. In other words, a delegation that could present itself, and be seen by the public, as “the Voice of Science,” and “the Voice of Science on Climate Change.”
(I would hope that any scientist worth his or her salt would be willing to participate, the stakes are that huge, the urgency that pressing.)
Have this group begin with a public request for an audience with the President-Elect.
Their statement in which this request is made would, of course, call attention to the vital importance of this issue, and how crucial it is that a person shouldering the responsibilities of the American presidency understands fully the nature of the crisis we face. And so they request a chance to discuss with the President-Elect what science can tell us about what is happening on our planet, and what is at stake in the policy course the nation takes.
Either these eminent people — representing the Voice of Science — will be granted such a meeting with Trump or they will not. (Given the people around Trump, one must guess it’s more likely that they will not.)
If Trump refuses to meet with this delegation, then the war begins.
Two salvos come to mind. First, from the delegation: a statement — again delivered to get maximal media attention — that denounces Trump’s refusal in whatever are the terms that will be both appropriate and damaging to Trump in his intransigence. And second, Elizabeth Warren should step up onto center stage to take him to challenge him on this issue in the powerful ways for which she has already displayed considerable talent.
If Trump does meet with the delegation, here is an approach that might be effective: the delegation might make a pitch to Trump that appeals to his vanity.
They could propose to the President-Elect that he could secure his place in history by launching what might be called “Trump’s Manhattan Project.” Just as the United States accomplished extraordinary things (at Los Alamos, in the Manhattan Project) during World War II, drawing on the brilliance of its scientists and engineers, so also now, Donald Trump as president can harness that same great American pool of talent to meet the major challenges posed by climate change: create the technologies of a clean energy future, and devise the ways by which the United States can lead the world in making a smooth and speedy transition to that future.
If the meeting occurs, but Trump does not deviate from the path he’s already begun down (I need not enumerate the worrisome things he’s already done since the election), then we are back to the war footing. The delegation issues an appropriately damning statement. And Elizabeth Warren goes after Trump in whatever way will best turn the American public against Trump and his climate change policies.