The Trump administration is not satisfied with merely destroying the Arctic by blocking domestic and global climate action. Rather, top officials appear to be cheering it on and mocking the victims of their self-destructive climate policies.
On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed the annual ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council, which represents the eight Arctic nations and indigenous peoples, and bragged about the economic opportunities being created by the rapidly melting Arctic.
“Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade,” Pompeo said.
He then reeled off statistics about all of the mining and drilling that can commence as the region continues to melt — fossil fuel exploration that will accelerate the warming that is destroying the region. “It houses 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil, 30% of its undiscovered gas.”
Pompeo never used the term “climate change” in his remarks and never mentioned that the White House released a report last year admitting. In fact, this National Climate Assessment (NCA) made clear Arctic warming has a number of disastrous impacts for Americans, including faster sea level rise, more extreme weather, and a boost in greenhouse gas emissions as the carbon-rich permafrost thaws.
While Pompeo may be enthusiastic about the alarming rate of ice melt, it’s wreaking havoc on the ecosystem. One of the most prominent victims of Arctic ice melt are polar bears, which use sea ice for hunting. According to one 2018 study, climate change will likely drive them to extinction faster than previously expected.
Not only has Trump’s Interior Department been at the forefront of efforts to burn more fossil fuels — by pushing for more drilling in Alaska, the Arctic, and on public lands — but the agency heads have both seemed to flaunt the fatal impact of their policies.
Former Secretary Ryan Zinke had a full-sized, stuffed polar bear in his office and he even posed for photos with it during the agency’s holiday party last December. Zinke resigned that month amid an array of scandals and investigations.
Zinke’s replacement, David Bernhardt, a former oil and gas lobbyist, has reportedly kept the stuffed polar bear. He also appears to have kept the scandals and investigations — which began to pile up just two weeks after he was confirmed.
As the ministerial meeting came to a close on Tuesday morning, Pompeo said he would not join the rest of the council members in an effort to reduce black carbon, a major source of carbon pollution and ice melt.
“We are not signing on to the collective goal for reduction of black carbon,” Pompeo said. “Collective goals,” he argued, are “rendered meaningless, even counterproductive, as soon as one nation fails to comply.” These words are remarkably ironic given Trump’s role in making the United States the only nation that is failing to comply with the Paris climate agreement.
The Trump administration also opposed any mention by the Arctic Council of the Paris agreement, in which 197 nations unanimously agreed to keep ratcheting down carbon pollution to keep total warming “well below 2 degrees Celsius” (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).
The administration’s anti-climate policies and actions are so extreme that even Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov mocked the United States last month at another Arctic forum.
The Trump’s administration’s efforts to speed the destruction of the Arctic and a livable climate will prove disastrous for this country. But his cabinet is not merely blind to this dangerous reality, they are actively enabling it.