’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
Thus begins the great nonsense poem “Jabberwocky.” It’s part of Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking-Glass,” in which Alice (of Wonderland fame) finds a fantastical world on the other side of a mirror. In this land, everything is reversed, even logic. Walking away from something, for example, brings you closer to it. Running helps you stay in place.
That’s where we are now in this country with respect to climate change. Our leader lives in an upside-down fantasyland, enabled by Cabinet Tweedledums and Tweedledees, while the rest of us slithy toves get mimsier by the moment.
How else to explain the utter surreality of the Trump administration sending a delegation to the ongoing UN climate change conference in Poland to hold its own event pushing the burning of fossil fuels as part of the answer to stopping global warming?
This would have been irresponsible even without last week’s news that the recent flatline trend has been broken and carbon dioxide emissions again are on the rise — by 1.6 percent in 2017 and a projected 2.7 percent in 2018, according to scientists at the Global Carbon Project. The biggest miscreants are China and India, as well as the United States; in the European Union, emissions continue to drop.
It’s not like evidence is lacking of “deep trouble with climate change,” as UN Secretary General António Guterres put it in Poland.
Wildfires in California, hurricanes in the Southeast, the arrival on our shores of tropical diseases like dengue fever and Zika, worldwide impacts like extreme droughts and floods and diminishing crop yields, and new evidence that air pollution from burning fossil fuels reduces life expectancy by 1.8 years are only a few entries on a long and growing list of the really bad effects of climate change.
And yet, President Donald Trump’s administration:
- Has approved requests from five companies to conduct seismic testing off the Atlantic coast from Delaware on south, a critical preparatory step for oil and natural gas drilling, despite opposition from virtually every governor along the Eastern Seaboard.
- Is working to lift restrictions and enable testing and exploratory drilling in the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, despite opposition from most Americans, and pushing for more drilling off the Alaskan shore.
- Is planning to roll back environmental protections for a bird, the greater sage grouse, to make available for oil and gas drilling another 9 million acres of federal land in 10 Western states, in addition to the many other regulatory rollbacks that will put more greenhouse gases into the air.
All this despite two recent reports from the Trump administration itself — a grim assessment on the future impacts of unabated climate change, and a finding that extracting and burning fossil fuels from federal lands contributes nearly one-quarter of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States.
There is no reason good enough to continue down this destructive path — not U.S. energy dominance, not fossil fuel company profits, not knee-jerk opposition to regulations.
The United States isn’t alone in its folly. Brazil’s new president wants to ratchet up the felling of carbon-sucking trees in the Amazon. China has increased coal use as its economic growth has slowed. Many nations are falling short of promises made in Paris in 2015.
Alice’s mixed-up adventure ends when she wakes up in a comfy armchair, no worse for the wear. But the other side of our looking glass is getting darker and more ominous, and we need someone who wants to guide us safely home.
Michael Dobie is a member of Newsday’s editorial board.