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Editorial: Trump and Zinke’s rush to Armageddon

  • Gov. Meldrim Thomson and Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis leave Bridges House, the governor's mansion in Concord, for a press conference in Manchester on Dec. 19, 1973. Onassis flew to New Hampshire in order to personally inspect the site of a proposed 600 million oil refinery to be built in the Durham Point area by Olympic Refineries, Inc. AP

Published: 12/9/2018 12:05:12 AM

The seas are rising. Lifeboat Earth is taking on water. Crew members and passengers frantically bail with cups and spoons but the crazed captain on the bridge cries “Drill, baby, drill” and helmsman Zinke drives an auger into the hull.

The Trump administration, acting through Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, wants to increase oil production by opening the nation’s East Coast and more of the Alaskan wilderness to drilling. The men must be mad.

“The Trump administration is laying the groundwork for an environmental disaster on New Hampshire’s Seacoast,” said the state’s senior senator, Jeanne Shaheen. The immediate fear is that seismic testing for oil, setting off underwater explosions, will harm whales and other sea life. Drilling brings with it the possibility of a massive oil spill. Bad, but far worse likely lies ahead.

Last week, at a meeting in Poland of the nearly 200 nations that signed the Paris accords to limit global warming, 95-year-old British naturalist Sir David Attenborough, he of so many TV specials and books, sounded a warning of biblical proportions. “Right now, we’re facing a man-made disaster of global scale, our greatest threat in thousands of years: climate change,” Attenborough said. “If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”

Overly dramatic? Maybe not. Last month, the White House published the 1,656-page combined report of 13 federal agencies warning that climate change will impact the health and safety of the American people and do hundreds of billions of dollars in damage to the U.S. economy.

On Wednesday, the 100 scientists united in the Global Carbon Project said that, driven partly by an increase in the burning of oil, greenhouse gas emissions were rising like a “speeding freight train.” Many nations are failing to meet the goals they set under the Paris climate accord President Trump wants the U.S. to abandon.

Greenhouse gas emissions in the United States are expected to go up by 2.5 percent this year, not down. They are going up even faster in China, 4.7 percent, and India, 6.3 percent. Two statistics bracket the moral argument. The United States is responsible for roughly one-third of all the carbon emissions in the atmosphere. India is increasing its carbon emissions, largely through the burning of coal, in order to provide electricity to 300 million people – nearly the population of the United States – who now live without it.

To offset the increased emissions of third-world countries, developed nations should be drastically reducing the burning of fossil fuels not increasing the extraction of planet-warming coal, oil and natural gas.

The governors and members of Congress from the Eastern states, Republican and Democrat alike, are nearly united in their opposition to Trump’s plan to permit oil exploration and drilling off their coasts. New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu wasn’t yet born when, in 1973, Aristotle Onassis, then the world’s richest man, tried to build an oil terminal on the Isle of Shoals and a refinery on Great Bay in Durham. Homegrown opposition killed Onassis’s plan, which had the support of New Hampshire’s ultra-conservative governor, Meldrim Thomson Jr. Today, Great Bay is now a national wildlife refuge.

Sununu opposes Trump’s East Coast oil drilling plan, but he and every other elected official who wants to be on the right side of planetary history must do far more. It’s time to oust Zinke and thwart every one of Trump’s attempts to increase the extraction of fossil fuels by every legal means possible.

What if Attenborough is right and civilization itself is at stake?

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