Today, President Donald Trump announced that he would pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement. If the vast majority of experts, political commentators, and average Jane and Joe Schmoes are to be believed, this is the end of the world. This piece is not to debate that conclusion. Instead, I will discuss a disturbing trend that I have noticed now and that evidently has existed for quite some time with apparently little challenge. Outside of a few deeply invested and knowledgable climate change policy followers, most of the disgust and shock at Trump’s decision has followed this model:
“Wow! This is ridiculous! Only the US, Syria, and Nicaragua aren’t a part of the agreement! Shame!”
“Donald Trump basically just sentenced millions to death when their cities are overrun by rising sea levels!”
“Does Trump even know that Pittsburgh’s mayor is still going to follow the agreement? Idiot!”
While people are definitely free to have their opinions and feel whatever anger they deem necessary, I am unnerved by the sheer lack of discussion about the actual agreement…both now and when the thing was signed. It seems as though most people, who are understandably not experts on climate change policy, still have expert-level braggadocio about the impact of Trump’s decision. What they don’t have the audacity to discuss is what exactly is in the Paris Climate Change Agreement. It seems as though most have defaulted to “A lot of countries signed it so it must be necessary for us to be in it.” or “It’s about climate change and climate change is important, so damn you Trump!”
Now I don’t trust Donald Trump to seriously address Climate Change as far as I can throw him, and I haven’t been to the gym in weeks. I am afraid that the promising advances that the U.S. has made in limiting or reducing carbon emissions (leading the world) are in jeopardy under the Trump administration. Advances illustrated by these charts:
That is a discussion for another piece. What I trust less than Trump’s committment to climate change solutions is the average person’s (and apparently many journalists, celebrities, and pundits) opinions on policy. The default assumption has been that if a policy (not implemented by Trump) is said to solve a problem, then that policy will definitely solve the problem.
And that, folks, is how we got the War on Drugs, or prohibition 2.0 as some might see it. While today, opponents of the War on Drugs will say that it was designed, advertised, and sold as a tool for mass incarceration of African-Americans and an assault on the poor, it really isn’t that simple. Prior to the onset of the War on Drugs, the crack cocaine epidemic ravaged poor and minority communities. Violence coming from the narcotic black market was a real and present danger for many innocent families looking to make an honest living. You can watch movies like American Gangster to see how drug kingpins and their minions terrorized the local population. It was, indeed, reminiscent of alcohol prohibition and the violence that came along with it in the 1920s. Instead of legalizing drugs as was done when alcohol prohibition became too dangerous and costly a policy, many dastardly politicians clamored for more force. It made perfect sense, policy-wise, that if you send more cops and make sentences more punitive that the drug economy would crumble. This is a very straightforward and logical argument. Thus, the introduction of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. The book “Black Silent Majority” , by Michael Javen Fortner, does a fairly good job of exploring how even African-American leaders and community figureheads supported the more punitive drug laws that would characterize the 70s and 80s. Now, in 2017, we can clearly see the negative impact of those laws and laws like them that were thought up and implemented in a panic. What we seemingly fail to do is learn a lesson about our role as private citizens to educate ourselves about the text and facts of policy rather than just the name and rhetoric.
The Rockefeller Drug Law Reforms were to reform drug laws which weren’t working.
The Anti-Drug Abuse Act (which increased federal sentences for crack cocaine to 100 times that of powder cocaine) was an act to combat drug abuse.
The War on Drugs was a battle against those evil drugs.
But they weren’t so great and they didn’t achieve their goals. Drug use hasn’t changed much and, by some measures, has increased even as over a trillion dollars has been spent on the War on Drugs and millions have been incarcerated as a result.
So, of course, in 2017, the Paris Climate Change Agreement is an agreement that will, without a doubt, undeniably, categorically save the planet from disastrous climate change, and there is no reason to be skeptical of it, and anyone who criticizes it in anyway wants us all to die, and it’s perfect just the way it is, and it’ll do what it says because it says what it will do in the title…
(This is not a critique of the Paris Climate Deal. This is a critique of how reluctant people are to educate themselves on policy. This is a critique of how readily willing we are to publicily air criticism or support based solely on superficial aspects of policy like it’s stated goal rather than the mechanisms it will actually use to arrive at said goal. This is a dangerous phenomenon and the world would be much better if it ceased.)