Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Disasters and Disagreements: Climate Change Collides with Trump's Border Wall

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Disasters and Disagreements: Climate Change Collides with Trump's Border Wall

Article excerpt

Disasters and disagreements: Climate change collides with Trump's border wall


This article was originally published on The Conversation, an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts. Disclosure information is available on the original site.


Author: Korey Pasch, PhD Candidate in Political Science and International Relations, Queen's University, Ontario

Recent news surrounding climate change and its consequences has been grim lately.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations body tasked with providing governments with the most accurate and up-to-date scientific information upon which they can frame their policy-making, released a special report in October 2018. It called for a rapid net reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030.

This means there are fewer than 12 years remaining for these changes to be accomplished globally.

Compounding these dire warnings are the potential consequences for severe catastrophic events as they unfold in a turbulent global environment, both physically and politically.

The Trump administration's recent release of the Fourth National Climate Assessment demonstrates just how costly climate change and catastrophic events will be for the United States in the future.

Yet the administration and even President Donald Trump himself deny the existence and effects of climate change, including during increasingly severe events.

But others are taking the consequences of climate change seriously, including the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), which has been actively increasing its resilience. The DoD views climate change as a "threat multiplier" and has been working to integrate adaptation measures into its plans, operations and training both internally and in conjunction with external partners.

Within this context, Trump's recent government shutdown and the intractable disagreement over the border wall is misguided in the most charitable of terms.

Funding the wall with disaster relief money

While the crisis over the shutdown appears to be over, at least for now, Trump has threatened to fund his border wall by taking money allocated for disaster relief and reconstruction. This includes $2.4 billion for California in the aftermath of its devastating wildfires and $2.5 billion to assist Puerto Rico's recovery from Hurricane Maria.

Trump's rhetoric around the allocation of disaster relief funds, along with other disaster-related subjects, including death tolls, reveals just how easily disasters are politicized. They're used for political gain almost always at the expense of those most vulnerable.

That's because politicians make politically expedient choices -- in this case over funding a border wall -- ahead of those that actually protect the security and safety of citizens in ongoing and future disasters.

Most importantly, Trump's threats illustrate why our discourse surrounding climate change and catastrophic events matters, and why it needs to change in order to reduce the impact of future disasters.

Mainstream narratives of disasters present them as isolated events in both space and time, distinct from our everyday relationship with nature, and possessing a definite beginning, middle and end. …

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