A Planetary Crisis Awaits the Next President

In the 12 years it took me to write “The Deluge,” my novel of the climate crisis, I watched as chaotic weather, record temperatures and shocking political events outpaced my imagination. The book depicts the human tipping point, when the damage becomes irreversible and the foundations of our economy, our politics and our world begin to crack. The plot points I was concocting in 2010 would become a constant drumbeat of headlines into 2024.

Last year alone, the warning signs included soaring ocean temperatures, a record loss of Antarctic Sea ice and the highest global average temperature in recorded human history. Wildfires, droughts, floods and extreme weather of every variety have come to shock even the scientists who study the shocking stuff. This is not the history we want to be living through.

Yet here we are, and those gears of history will grind together again this year as another presidential election meets our permanent emergency. The stakes of the climate crisis render the cliché of “This is the most important election of our lifetimes” increasingly true because every four years those stakes climb precipitously alongside the toppling records of a radically new climatic regime.

The White House may soon be recaptured by Donald Trump, who called the climate crisis a “hoax” and even when backing off that assertion insisted, “I don’t know that it’s man-made.” He has demonstrated his thinking again and again, as when he told a scientist, “It’ll start getting cooler, you just watch.”

There has recently been a great deal of reporting on Project 2025, a 900-plus-page road map for a second Trump administration assembled by the conservative Heritage Foundation. On climate, the report is succinct: “The Biden administration’s climate fanaticism will need a whole-of-government unwinding.”

The report recommends a repeal of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and Inflation Reduction Act, which would shred the tax credits that have led to hundreds of billions of dollars in investments in clean energy, the jump-starting of factory openings and the creation of jobs in virtually every corner of the country. Also lost will be investments in environmental justice, those measures that aim to reduce pollution in marginalized communities, provide affordable clean energy and create jobs in low-income neighborhoods. As for electric cars, which are critical to meeting the nation’s climate goals, the report recommends an end to all federal mandates and subsidies.

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