Molecules of Freedom

Thomas Schueneman

It has absolutely nothing to do with freedom, patriotism, or sound energy policy.

What many have feared with the election of Donald Trump - normalizing erratic behavior, tinpot leadership, and a public discourse awash in gaslight - every day comes to pass anew.

Even as the Trump administration steps up its attack on climate science, it turns up the gas.

New York Times environmental reporter Coral Davenport recently reported on how Trump has hardened his attack on climate science. If he can’t realistically deny its validity, he’ll keep the most important parts out of public view and limit its scope.

Currently, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), is prohibited to publish any climate forecast beyond the year 2040. A move that slipped under the radar largely unnoticed. However bad it gets before 2040, it'll be worse after 2040 

In response to its bungled attempt to bury the latest National Climate Assessment Report (NCA4) by releasing it on Black Friday (the high holy days of rampant consumerism) and subsequently ridiculing it, the administration now proposes that future NCAs lop off the bad news. Mandated by Congress, the NCA is the reports every four years on the U.S. government’s multi-agency climate research and forecasts. The report underpins the country’s science and research leadership role in the global community.

NCAs typically project four scenarios, from best case to worst case, based on possible human responses to climate change.

Think of the worst case as business as usual: CO2 levels continue to rise to 500, 600, 700 parts-per-million by the end of the century; Trump’s agenda to roll back nearly all environmental safeguards, many in place since the 1970s or before, succeeds; civilization trods unheedingly past tipping points.

On the other hand, we just might wake up tomorrow, look around, and go “holy sh*t, we’ve gotta do something about this”. Markets, economies, countries, and people are transformed in a wave of clarity and motivation to drastically change course. Realizing at last that nothing good comes from trashing the environment. That’s the best case scenario.

My best hope is hitting one of the middle scenarios: we survive, more of less, and look wistfully back at the good ol’ days of calmer skies and more stuff (even as our children, betrayed, look upon their elders with scorn).

The point is, that for any of these scenarios to make sense or help us plan for an uncertain future, they all must be considered. Trump would simply have the worst case scenario, the path we’re on, hidden from the public. It isn’t yet policy, but if that were to happen, the first thing to go would be one more strand of America’s credibility and influence in the world. We’ve little left to lose. From there it gets worse, but we won’t have any idea what that means, since the government hid from us how bad it might get.

Don’t be a traitor

Even for an anti-environmental administration led by a man unmoored to reality, it’s hard to pursue such an aggressive backward-leaning agenda without some justification.

How about freedom? You got a problem with freedom? I didn’t think so. We all know where freedom comes from - hydrocarbons. Molecules of Freedom. Freedom Gas.

It’s shorthand, it’s easy, it’s like getting a hit. It is a rallying cry of confused men and women, huddling in their dark caverns of fear, knowing what they believe in and not wanting to think about it too much: “Molecules of Freedom!”

And what else should we expect from the carnival barker? Even without a philosophical discussion about what freedom is, the phrase is as empty as it is compelling. It has absolutely nothing to do with freedom, patriotism, or sound energy policy.

If you’re against Freedom Gas, not only are you unpatriotic, you’re a traitor. Don’t be a traitor, suck up the gas.

I’m not buying any of it.