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Climate Change — What Climate Change? In SOTU, Trump Ignores The Global Emergency 

President Trump delivers the State of the Union address, with Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi behind. (Doug Mills/AP)
President Trump delivers the State of the Union address, with Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi behind. (Doug Mills/AP)

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The State of the Union is tragic.

The president’s rambling discourse on Tuesday night loudly omitted climate change. In the 82 minutes of blather, hyperbole, preening, fearmongering and shameless demagoguery, there was not a word about the urgent need to transform our energy systems and confront the threat of climate disruption.

By saying nothing, Trump spoke volumes about the state of our politics. A nation whose leadership dares not even acknowledge the existence of a global crisis cannot be called “strong.”

Trump went well beyond merely excluding climate change from his speech. He gloried in the expansion of domestic fossil fuel production and boasted that he had “unleashed a revolution in American energy.”

But why should America cheer its status as the world’s top oil and gas and producer? Trump’s policy of energy hegemony is an outdated geopolitical strategy that historically has benefited fossil-fuel megacorporations at the cost of untold billions of dollars in military support, subsidies and pollution. And success in the extraction of ever-increasing volumes of oil and gas has consequences that Trump willfully ignores: the past four years rank as the warmest recorded, and in 2018, global carbon emissions reached an all-time high.

By saying nothing, Trump spoke volumes about the state of our politics.

As the U.S. celebrates its gushing oil wells, it lags China, Japan and Germany in solar power production. China is building more than double the number of electric vehicles. We are down at fourth place in wind power. And for offshore wind energy, we aren’t even on the charts -- China and the European nations have a formidable headstart on us.

Leadership in renewable energy technology would be something to gloat over, but the administration is fixated on fossil fuels. Trump crowed about his drive to deregulate the oil and gas industries (he was silent about his embarrassing failure to resuscitate coal). And it’s true — the oil and gas business has benefited from his EPA’s assault on rules and regulations.

So let’s review a few of the changes that give Trump so much pride:

- The Interior Department rolled back rules that limited flaring of methane (a harmful greenhouse gas) from oil wells, saving the industry billions.

- The EPA gutted the Clean Power Plan proposed by the Obama administration, enabling the continued operation of dirty coal-fired power plants.

- Rules to limit the likelihood of offshore drilling spills and accidents were dropped.

- The EPA moved to loosen restrictions on mercury, which the World Health Organization ranks in the top 10 chemicals of major health concern.

- The Department of Transportation moved to weaken automobile fuel efficiency standards, which, by their own estimates, will result in hundreds of premature deaths due to respiratory illness each year.

Such are the regulatory cuts that for which Trump is anxious to claim credit. The unbridled zeal to push the production of fossil fuels, regardless of the environmental consequences, evinces a worldview blind to the reality of climate change and blind to the evolving opinions of Americans, including those in his party.

The state of the union is indeed sad when the president believes socialism is a bigger threat than climate change.

A recent study from the Yale Climate Change Communications Program showed Republicans are coming around to the idea that climate change is a major issue. The omission of any climate reference in the State of the Union is a political calculation that ignores — or perhaps is meant to combat — the growing support for the government to put in place an ambitious climate plan.

And Democrats have just a such a plan in the works. Sen. Edward Markey and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are close to releasing a resolution outlining a “Green New Deal,” an idea rapidly gaining support among prospective Democratic candidates for president, and which polls well across the political spectrum.

Some say the Green New Deal is socialism, another topic that, not coincidentally, popped up in the Tuesday’s speech. “Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country,” Trump found it necessary to say.

The state of the union is indeed sad when the president believes socialism is a bigger threat than climate change.

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Frederick Hewett Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Frederick Hewett is a freelance writer living in Cambridge. He writes about energy, climate, politics and Boston.

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