Thomas Homer-Dixon is a professor in the Balsillie School of International Affairs and the faculty of environment at the University of Waterloo.
Those of us concerned about climate change generally inhabit an old-fashioned reality-based world. Scientific research and evidence drive our concern. Although we wish the climate problem would vanish – because, among other things, we want our kids and grandkids to have a safe future – that motivation doesn’t override what science tells us. And science tells us that climate change is a grave threat to humanity.
Now we also have to face the reality that Donald Trump’s election as President of the United States is calamitous for the fight against climate change. Because Mr. Trump and his key cabinet nominees are deeply committed to promoting carbon-based energy industries, they’re not inclined to believe that climate change is a pressing danger or even, in the case of some of nominees, real. The president-elect himself is ignorant of basic science and has an almost postmodernist contempt for facts or anything resembling the truth. He operates within and through a discourse of authority and force, not a discourse of reason.
For Mr. Trump, evidence either doesn’t matter or it can be created at will, which means he’s largely unreachable through evidence-based argument. His magical reality is unfalsifiable. Ice could completely disappear from the Arctic, forests in the U.S. West could erupt in fire, and a Category 5 hurricane could smash his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida to toothpicks, and it wouldn’t make any difference to his views on climate change. (While campaigning in California, Mr. Trump denied the state is suffering from a severe drought.)
Immediately after his inauguration, Mr. Trump and his cabinet will launch a full-scale assault on the…