We’ve never met, but you seem like a reasonable person, and you have your father’s ear, so I hope that you might be able to answer some questions about his stance on a topic that’s important to me, and I’d wager to you, too.
During the campaign, your dad said that he didn’t believe in climate change, threatened to pull out of the global Paris Agreement that went into force this month, and promised to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency. In an interview with the New York Times last week, he said that he now saw “some connectivity” between humans and climate change, and that he would “keep an open mind” about whether to pull out of the Paris accord, but implied that acting on climate change would depend on “how much it’s going to cost our companies.”
Yet numerous reports, including Risky Business, released in 2014 and funded by Hank Paulson, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Rockefeller Family Fund, and others, states, “If we continue on our current path, many regions of the U.S. face the prospect of serious economic effects from climate change,” particularly in the agriculture, energy and coastal real estate sectors.
And yet your father’s incoming chief of staff, Reince Priebus, confirmed on Sunday that the idea that “most of [climate change] is a bunch of bunk,” is his “default position.” Some key members of your dad’s transition team are people with a long history of peddling the idea of “the global warming myth” and rejecting the overwhelming scientific consensus around the issue.
It’s actually a consensus your father and your family once joined. Do you remember the full-page letter in the Times addressed to President Obama and Congress, signed by your father, your family, and other prominent business leaders prior to the 2009 U.N. Climate Change Conference? It said, “If we fail to act now, it is scientifically irrefutable that there will be catastrophic and irreversible consequences for humanity and our planet.”
How does your father square that with his allegation that climate change is a “hoax” invented by China—intended, he once tweeted, to make the U.S. “non-competitive”? And how does your dad reconcile that statement with China’s new carbon cap-and-trade market, which borrows from similar programs in the European Union and California?; or with the fact that China’s solar panel installation now comprises about 15 percent of the world’s installed solar capacity, and its total wind capacity was almost double that of the U.S.’s in 2015? How about Beijing’s slowing of approval and production of over 200 new coal plants? If climate change is a hoax, China’s investment in these policies, as well as its efforts toward mitigation and adaptation, is perplexing, no?
Your father is a big fan of the military. Did he lose any sleep over the 2015 Department of Defense (DoD) report that stated, “Global climate change will aggravate problems such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership, and weak political institutions that threaten stability in a number of countries”? The report, issued at the behest of the Senate Appropriations Committee, concluded that the DoD “is observing the impacts of climate change in shocks and stressors to vulnerable nations and communities, including in the U.S., the Arctic, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and South America.” Your father’s current climate-denier platform flies in the face of the enhanced national security he promised voters. Wouldn’t addressing these risks cited by the DoD help Make America Great Again?
If your father ends up “tearing up” the Paris Agreement, are you concerned about whether the 192 signatory countries, who upheld their Agreement commitment at recent COP 22 meetings, will negotiate with him on other issues, like trade agreements, Syria, Iran, or North Korea? While your father hasn’t released his budget for building the wall, it would surely cost more than the agreement’s $2.5 billion U.S. commitment to developing countries for assistance in reducing carbon dioxide. Think of $2.5 billion as another kind of wall, a down payment in preventing the inflow of hundreds of millions of climate refugees into the U.S. over the next generation.
Speaking of walls: as one of the leaders of the Trump Organization, you probably know about the seawall that your father has sought to build at the Trump International Golf Links & Hotel Ireland, in County Clare, earlier this year. The zoning application explicitly cites the need to protect the property from “global warming and its effects,” including increased erosion due to rising sea levels and extreme weather events.
Such seawalls are exactly the types of mitigation measures that the Trump Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida will require in the coming decades too, according to a recent report by a team of university scientists, which forecasts the flooding of more than 26,000 Palm Beach County coastal waterway and beachfront properties.
And look, your family loves to ski, right? So is your dad worried about the disappearance of winter as we know it? Last week, it was reported that Arctic temperatures were a whopping 36 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. Last year, warmer temperatures curtailed ski seasons across Europe, the U.S., Canada, and Australia with low snow precipitation, forcing ski resorts to manufacture snow and shut early. (Evidently, your father was worried about this too: in 2014, he made a $5,000 donation to advocacy group Protect Our Winters.)
As people of the Orthodox Jewish faith, the Old Testament calls on you and your husband Jared to “have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” Is it hard to swallow the planned EPA regulation rollbacks that will denigrate the planet your three children call home, releasing more climate-warming CO2 by drilling for oil, poisoning fish (and human lungs) with coal’s mercury, and polluting water with fracking?
If your dad makes good on his promises to gut the EPA, pulls the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, drills for more oil and gas, and attempts to revive the coal industry—which many have said there’s no restoring given the U.S. abundance of low-priced natural gas—his presidency risks pushing the planet over a critical two-degree Celsius rise in temperature in coming decades. This threshold represents that point when the U.S. Global Change Research Program, a consortium comprised of 13 federal agencies including NASA, warns the country will slip into catastrophic ecological imbalance triggering crop failures, the displacement of tens to hundreds of millions of Americans by flooding and drought, costly infrastructure collapse, and widespread extinction of plants and animals. Is that the type of historic “win” your father wants?
I hope you’ll remember “tikkun olam,” the acts of kindness to repair and perfect the world in classical rabbinical teachings, and ask your father these questions not on behalf of me, but on behalf of your family, your children, and future generations everywhere.
Sarah Bacon is a writer, climate activist, rare disease advocate, and serves on the board of Refugees International. She lives in Brooklyn and Connecticut. This story reflects the views of the author, but not necessarily the editorial position of Fast Company.