The coming climate


One possible good outcome of the pandemic and its impact on the economy is having the cleanest air and water in decades, thanks to the reduction in vehicle traffic. Unfortunately, this transformation will not last once the virus has passed. Climate change remains the severest long-term problem facing the world today. 

Just after the 2016 presidential election, I wrote in these pages that Donald Trump has “consistently expressed his belief that climate change and global warming were a hoax.” As for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “‘We are going to get rid of it in every form’” (MV Times, Jan. 4, 2017). Thanks to the New York Times, we now have a list of almost 100 eliminated or reduced environmental rules or regulations by the EPA or presidential executive order. Some of these rules originated in the Nixon administration.

This has happened because in part President Trump harbors a well-known skepticism of science. He has claimed that he possesses innate scientific knowledge because of his relation to his uncle, John Trump, an MIT physicist and electrical engineer. He told the Centers for Disease Control physicians and researchers in March that his scientific learning was due to his “natural ability.”

But he has long downplayed scientific expertise, and early on, even questioned the efficacy of vaccines, though now he promotes one to protect against COVID-19. He has promoted a drug to combat COVID-19 that has shown little effectiveness, and he has even suggested that it might be wise for doctors to inject sick people with disinfectant (no, don’t do it).

The automobile, fossil fuel, and other industries have argued that many of the environmental rules were onerous, and one of the first presidential goals in 2017 was to attack them. According to the New York Times, the effort has met with great success.

Let us review just a very few of them (the full list may be found at Just last month, automobile efficiency and greenhouse gas standards were weakened, even though gasoline usage and its accompanying increase in pollution are expected to drastically increase. The EPA recently relaxed rules governing the leakage reduction in substances known as super-polluters, which are hydrofluorocarbons, refrigerants that have been shown to damage the ozone layer.

An executive order rescinded an Obama-era requirement to reduce federal agencies’ greenhouse emissions by 40 percent within 10 years. Last year, President Obama’s national clean power plan was replaced by one left to the states to create and enforce. Or not. The Obama plan limited the carbon emissions on fossil fuel plants, including those fired by coal and gas. In 2018, the EPA lifted controls on toxic air pollution that had been in place since the Clinton administration. In other words, polluters need to reach much lower standards.

The administration opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling. It did away with water standards regarding the ocean and coastal waterways, as well as the Great Lakes. Instead, the policy favors energy production by the fossil fuel industry. 

And it is now well known that the U.S. gave notice that it would withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, an action that will take place in November.

As I noted in that earlier essay, “Emission standards on cars and trucks and energy-efficient refrigerators and washing machines may all go down the drain. Residents and visitors may face severe coastal erosion when increasingly intense ferocious storms throughout the year hit the Island. Summers may grow hotter and winters colder, or, alternatively, we could see warmer-than-normal winters and cooler summers. The accompanying decline in both agricultural production and the fishing industry, and higher energy use, will directly affect the Vineyard.”

After all, for the new administration, climate change was always a Chinese hoax that the American people blindly accepted. But if success could be measured by failure, the Trump administration has succeeded at our expense. We are the ones who will suffer. The new environmental policies have failed us, the American people, as we can anticipate growing pollution and an increase in illness and death due to the dire ramifications of climate change. This is a sad commentary on our time as we live through this dreadful, disease-ravaged moment.


Jack Fruchtman, a part-time Aquinnah resident, taught constitutional law and politics for more than 40 years.


  1. Fruchtmans first paragraph shows how out of touch he is. For him it is unfortunate that the pandemic wont last because of its good effect on the planet while it does last.

  2. Notice not one word about the largest polluter of our climate, China.
    No worries, Biden (if he can find his shoes) will fix everything.

    • KAG that’s probably because per capita emissions in China are 1/2 what the average U.S citizen uses, and here in the United States we can make our laws, not China’s.
      I can’t help but notice that the same people who are climate deniers were also quite sure covid -19 was nothing to worry about. is anybody learning anything out there ?
      perhaps, KAG, you can just claim the scientist aren’t really doing science, whatever that is, and we can blissfully go about buying plastic trinkets made in China and throwing them into the ocean without any consequence. Got kids ? It’s a longer term problem than what happens in out hedonistic society in the next week.

  3. I’m sorry. As a lifetime geographer, I cannot adopt his pessimism regarding our future. In the late 1970’s when I was lecturing at a major American university, the conventional wisdom was that we were entering a new ice age.

    • Islander- There were 7 — count em’ seven peer reviewed studies over the entire decade of the 70’s that concluded that earth was cooling. All were base on the fact that most natural causes of climate change were indicating cooling over the next few tens of thousand years.
      There were 44 peer reviewed studies that predicted a warming trend, based solely on rising green house gas emissions.
      I hardly see how that was “conventional wisdom”.

  4. Fructman is a shill for the globalist oligarchy that seeks to subordinate the USA to the will of the international movers and shakers. Their real problem with Trump is that he cannot be controlled and made to cooperate with their pernicious agenda.

    • The real problem with Trump is that he is a sociopath, utterly devoid of compassion. As the death toll for Coronavirus nears 100,000 over Memorial Day weekend, Trump played golf and tweeted “Happy Memorial Day”. He doesn’t even know what “memorial” means. Come November, vote for Joe, not the schmo.

  5. For a couple of people on this site, certain beliefs are too aggressive to be compatible with free cultural and intellectual life. Those beliefs cannot be tolerated only defeated. Their ideology in its current mode of thought is deeply unphilosophical. It no longer works by argument but by recognition, consciousness raising, –woking up. It assumes there can be no common premises with persons inhabiting alien ideologies which are by definition tools of oppression. There can only be conversion or unmasking of enemies defeat and humiliation of incorrect thought. They argue by moral labelling and denunciation which are not arguments. Life as critiques means that there is no real possibility of solidarity beyond the party line. These critical theorists cannot compromise; they cannot participate peaceably in civil society on a basis of equality with other ways of thinking. Their style does not permit a cost benefit negotiation or analysis.

      • I’m going to second that. It’s one thing to present an intellectual argument, hopefully bolstered by objective and verified facts. It’s another to spout verbiage for verbiage’s sake.

      • hanley clifford. You often give us good posts and I am surprised you dont understand what I said. It is plain English.

        • Andrew – After seeing the replies of your attackers, and upon studying your post more closely, I can get the sense of your intent.

    • Andrew, I am glad to see a comment from you, given what’s going on. Hope you and your family are in good health.

      My less-than-sophisticated interpretation here is that we treat politics and morality like a game of whack-a-mole. Spot a target, reflexively smack it. Converse only long enough to win, not with an eye towards listening or mutual understanding. That slapping a label on a viewpoint or person should not be considered proof that it’s warranted. Not without facts and a supporting argument. I’d say that’s fair and admit there are some stances I can’t explain well with words. They’re instinctual. But we should challenge ourselves to back up assertions with reason and show our work. And maybe it would be more productive if we went into discussions looking for common ground.

      I feel being “woke” is self-gratifying nonsense. A label of superiority some decided they can bestow upon themselves, often without practicing what they preach. It takes the focus off of important issues. Not helpful. There’s a joke within Buddhism along these lines. Something about how calling yourself a Buddhist disqualifies you from being one. Because ego.

      • Aquinnah, thank you for your kind words. Your interpretation is correct. The writer below thinks I am too ”pedantic with my own verbosity” lol. The writer below never misses an opportunity to spew invective.

    • Hard to make much sense of a word salad, but I can guess who the “couple of people” on theses pages are who Andrew is nonsensically whining about. The “too aggressive beliefs” Andrew assigns to those couple of people do not align with the “free cultural and intellectual life” Andrew fancies himself to hold. In other words, Andrew objects to those speak out against all forms of bigotry and damaging climate change as unphilosophical.

      This leads anyone to wonder what Andrew thinks is so philosophical about his beliefs? Here is just one snippet of Andrew’s intellectualism and philosophy:

      “The infection came here from China. [Actually, the strain of Coronavirus came to the east coast from Europe, but facts don’t matter to Andrew.] Have you ever walked around in China and Hong Kong and watched how people cough up spit on the sidewalk all the time? I know– that is racist.” ~Andrew

      Moving right along, it’s hard to decipher what a member of a cult religion views as “tools of oppression”. Oh the irony. And “There can only be conversion or unmasking of enemies defeat and humiliation of incorrect thought” seems to have something to do with Andrew understandably feeling humiliated after he made a rather obscene but public bet on how many American lives will be lost to Coronavirus. After losing that bet and going into hiding, and then failing to pay up, he publicly offered a poor excuse in its stead, as if his not believable excuses should relieve him of his obligation to be honorable to his word. We’ve talked about reliability, truth, morality, and honoring one’s word, and Andrew seems to object to how his own behavior on these pages has painted him. It’s not too late, Andrew. Pay your debt and be done with it, and philosophize to your heart’s content.

      This part is laughable: “they cannot participate peaceably in civil society on a basis of equality with other ways of thinking.” When the “other ways of thinking” include racist attitudes toward many, including Chinese people, as he admits is racist above, Andrew is correct. Andrew will not get decent people to participate with him. Decent people do not encourage or engage in racist thoughts because bigotry is not an equalizer. It is a deadly divider.

      That’s my take, but I agree, an interpreter would help. And again, this has nothing to do with how the climate has been favorably impacted by shut down industries because of the Coronavirus, but surely there is a lesson there in how the Trump administration’s shut down of environmental policies already in place was a very, very bad deed by a very, very bad President.

      • Jackie — check out the latest excuse from Andrew, and my reply about the bet
        on the article about “visitors welcome”.

  6. Jackie
    Bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die. Resentment brings sourness to the soul. It can lead to lasting anxiety or depression. It can hamper daily life and infect relationships. Bitterness and resentment typically are the result of unresolved hurt or anger and run the gamut from the traumatic to the trivial. Anger gives a foothold to the darkness. Those weighed down with bitterness and resentment may find relief by forgiving. While bitterness can cause anxiety and depression, forgiveness has the opposite effect. Forgiveness may be difficult to extend, trusting in the power of God, you may find forgiveness is the ultimate antidote to the poison of bitterness. “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold” (Proverbs)

    • After my first response to Andrew did not make it to the light of day, I thought a little more about what I’d like to say that would be more in line with the Times guidelines for our comments. The more I thought, the more curious I became. Andrew’s “forgiveness” lecture, which he addressesd to me and again had nothing to do with climate, did not sound like something he could or would write. So, I googled a few phrases. Lo and behold, Andrew changed around and shortened a few things here and there, but he plagiarized this Christian article from the Salvation Army:

      Except for the quote from the Old Testament, the one part that Andrew stuck in and properly cited because it is jewish like me and not so obviously Christian, we have Andrew’s reliance on what he himself is unable to express for himself– but does not want us to know. Why would Andrew try to pass off this Salvation Army article as written by him? Do good Christians steal other Christians’ written words? Isn’t that purposely deceitful? Andrew, you’ve outdone yourself in the department of your deceptions. As far as forgiveness goes, it sounds to me like you are seeking forgiveness for something. Try honesty and maybe you’ll get what you need.

    • Plagiarizing is cheating, just like reneging on a bet is cheating. Character counts, but apparently not to Andrew. A die-hard Trump follower again shows what he’s made of and what he’s willing to do to promote that which is not truthful. Why?

      • Jackie the quotation marks were in the wrong place by accident and as for the wager you know nothing of the details and are guessing. The War Cry quote is clearly intended for people like you. I do not need to steal words to decry your hate on this forum.

  7. “Possible good outcome of the pandemic”? Depends on who you are. The island is going to shed scores of seasonal junk businesses. Many people will leave this place because jobs will be gone and who wants to face next winter poor and with no prospects for next summer. Don’t be fooled; this pandemic is just getting started and we are indeed looking at the “new normal”. So what could be good? Business property values will decline because few will be available to pay the huge up front rents. The highest and best use profile will change. Different business will see opportunity. What could change the game? …development of a vaccine, but don’t hold your breath.

  8. Frowning Dourness vs. Shrillness- heck of a back-and-forth going between responders. The sad thing is that in 50 years, were these characters still alive, they’d still be carrying on the same charade of a “debate” whether the island was underwater or unchanged. Hopefully, there will be new people to carry out the exchange, ideally with more of a reliance on verifiable facts and civility.

    • I’d check my gender bias at the door, if I were you, Wesley. If not for that, I’d take your words a ittle more seriously, and maybe even take them to heart because without the obvious sexism, I could see your point. But you ruin it. Let me guess, men are dour but not shrill? Did you think Andrew’s word salad was shrill? And his plagiarized ditty? Why are women the ones who are accused of being shrill and not men? Can a man be shrill when he whines about how he’s not allowed to express his opinions, even though he expresses his views over and over but doesn’t like how his veiws are responded to? Did you know that women are allowed to be angry and to express that anger? When a (white) man intelligently expresses anger he is seen as strong. When a woman does it she is shrill and, to Andrew, bitter and resentful. And of course, people of color cannot express anger without consequences, sometimes dire. They can’t even nicely ask a white woman to put her dog on the leash as the law requres. As far as facts go, I do not lie. Truth counts. Shrill is a sexist word used to put women in their place, just like “uppity” has been used when people of color express themselves strongly. Just thought you should know.

  9. So much hate and anger some of you have, it’s not good for your health.
    If you want to do something productive find solutions not look for blame. Volunteer, run for office…
    Maybe Find something all the unexpected unemployed can do.

    The climate: earth will be fine it’s us your worried about, it’s hard not to be self centered.

    Summer people: They reap what they sow. If you missed them they will come back…and you will be happy.

    The levels of pain that keep getting put on all of us is unbelievable. We as humans will adapt or die.
    You do you, I will do me. In science, politics and religion.

    I will tell the attendant what makes me comfortable and maybe they can adjust what it is they are doing, maybe not.

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