Filed under: 2017, climate change, futurism, Speculation | Tags: 2017, predictions
Over Christmas, we had all the relatives over, and our beloved nieces gave us their colds. Well, I’m not sure it’s just a cold, because I’ve been spiking a fever every evening for the last week, but we loved seeing them anyway.
All this is in explanation for why I haven’t said anything over the holidays.
Anyway, 2017 predictions. I’ll throw mine out, and feel free to add yours at the end.
BEFORE I START, HERE’S A WARNING: if there’s any US online publication that you need for climate science or anything else, download that sucker before January 20th. There’s no reason to think it will be available on the 21st, although hopefully the Wayback Machine and international mirror sites will help.
Can I start at any place other than Trump? Actually, yes: I predict that there won’t be a global nuclear war between now and the end of the year. I just hope there isn’t a regional nuclear war between Pakistan and India.
Trump’s #2. In multiple ways. So the dude gets sworn into office and doesn’t divest (prediction #2). I tend to go with the Talking Points Memo version of reality on this, in that the problem is, whether he’s a billionaire or worth somewhat less, we know he’s sitting under at least $730 million in debts he has to pay off (per Mother Jones. About half of that is to the private bank side of Deutsche Bank), and from the way he’s acting around the Russians and the Kochs, he might owe a lot more to them. Indeed, he might have started taking money from the Kochs to keep up the payments on his more visible debts (the stuff Mother Jones could ferret out). Trump’s big problem could be that he may not be able to divest because he’s so far underwater that the blind trust would quickly go bankrupt. This might also explain why he’s keeping his executive producer spot on The Apprentice–he needs even that comparatively trivial bit of income to keep his whole empire afloat.
Now, if he really was a courageous reformer, he’d actually declare his problems, take his licks, leave his family the hard job of unwinding his debts, and emerge influence free and with a much tougher family. He has never (to my knowledge) showed this strength of character, which is too bad: if he did it, he’d probably end up as a great president. As it is, he’s trying to scam his way through with his standard BS/Bully/Settle routine, and that’s where things get interesting, because everyone is getting familiar with the routine. It looks like he’s going to try to run his administration Apprentice style, with maximum chaos and uncertainty, cliffhangers every Friday, because the noise generated thereby will take the news exposure off what he’s also trying to do, which is to refloat his business empire.
Right now, he’s got this coalition around him: the paymasters (Russia, Koch Brothers, and various private financial institutions), the alt-right, who have been using Twitter to beta-test all their intimidation and swarm tactics the way the Germans used gliders to train their fighter pilots, the Koch Brothers’ oil defenders (aka the climate change denialists, anti-regulatory types, and so on), and the apocalyptic Christians who think that it’s all going to end real soon anyway, and because they’re good with God (meaning they’ve been touched with the magic water and said the magic words)* they can do anything they want, because Jesus will make it all right for them later on. Oh, and then there are the republicans, who, if they don’t belong to one of these tribes, are just running along with it because power is so addictive, isn’t it?
So yeah, that’s a real stable coalition where everyone is marching in lock step. It’s more like the entering ranks of any big reality show, with superficial unity and backplates at the ready. It’s easy to predict this thing is going to fracture into competing, backstabbing (perhaps literally), mess, and I predict there will be some failed nominations (probably to be replaced by someone marginally less loathsome who will be selected because well, they’re an improvement), some resignations, and some firings. Just to keep myself cheerful, I’ll predict some investigations and indictments too.
In some of the federal bureaucracies, I suspect that the lifer bureaucrats will run rings around their almost universally less ept Trumpian bosses. This will include the military, which is pretty much designed that way, but I suspect other departments with long-running fiefdoms will do okay, whatever that means for their fief. In others the workers will sadly fall in line with the deconstruction of everything they and their predecessors worked for over the last few decades. I’ll bravely predict that there’s more of the former than the latter. We’ll see come December.
In this case, I suspect Trump will tend to cleave closer to the desires of his paymasters when money is involved, but he will use the alt-right and Christian fringe to make threats, as leverage to give himself wiggle room whenever possible. I think Congress will be largely useless except in gutting laws, and probably so will the Supreme Court. A lot of the important actions will fall to the states, counties, and cities. Those who voted for Trump because they were left behind by the Great Recession and not courted by the democrats in 2016 will fall even further into pain.
I also predict that Trump will face a phalanx of lawsuits over his failure to divest. As someone noted, all sorts of businesses might conceivably make a case that their businesses were hurt by Trump’s self dealing, and sue him for damages. Hotels might sue when Trump tries to drive embassies to his properties, for example. Golf course owners may sue Trump International if all government business is supposed to be conducted on Trump-owned courses. I suspect the first such suits will show up later this year.
Then there’s the other half of the influence problem, as demonstrated last November when Turkey jailed Trump’s major Turkish business partner on what many thought were trumped up charges. Foreign governments will seek leverage with him however they can get it, whether by making his business partners their ambassadors to the US, giving him sweetheart deals in return for some sugar, or alternatively, extorting him by raising the costs of doing business, jailing his partners, or going after his friends and associates outside the US. It’s a real mess, and I don’t envy the Secret Service in trying to keep their charges safe in this. I’m not sure how to turn this into a prediction, but watch for both positive and negative outcomes of double-dealing in various stories, and mostly on the international media.
Will this get Trump impeached in the first year under the Emoluments Clause? I doubt it, but then again, I don’t know how ept (or inept) he truly is. It’s a Sword of Damocles over Trump, but a successful impeachment all depends on whether Pence comes across as sufficiently competent and the Republican Congress regrows their notochords and become motile and free-moving again (tunicate joke). Otherwise, the democrats are barely smart enough to try to plan to retake Congress in 2018 and then impeach. Maybe.
I’m not going to get into what the alt-right will do with social media or to attempts to flatten the social landscape, but it’s going to be a mess. I recommend donating money to Planned Parenthood and the Southern Poverty Law Center, or other charities of your choice. You’ll notice that “we get more personally active in trying to head off various messes” becomes a bigger theme in 2017. Hopefully, at the end of the year we can all talk about how much we had to do and pat each other on the back.
In climate news, it’s going to be messy as well. I predict the Kochians will try to blind as much of NASA and NOAA’s earth science observatories as possible, and I strongly support climate scientists in fighting back to keep our vision of the world. I don’t know who to donate to to help on this (Union of Concerned Scientists?), but if you have a way to help scientists keep doing their research, do it. In the US, I predict a bunch of weather events made more extreme by climate change will be laughed off by the lamestream media who choose to fall in line with Trump to keep access to his Whitehouse (the idiots. This may well include NPR, unfortunately). I suspect the rest of the world will increasingly look to Germany and China to lead the way on climate change. Hope they’re up to the challenge.
In other predictions: Renewable energy will keep rising, despite efforts by the fossil fuel industries to tamp it down. For grid energy, that horse is leaving the barn, and it has bipartisan support by people outside the White House. Unfortunately, in San Diego vehicles cause 55% of GHG emissions if you believe the official stats, so wind and solar aren’t nearly enough on their own. But we’re finally seeing it take off, and I predict it will continue to grow non-linearly. And that Matt’s reworked prediction curves will still come out a bit low.
Climate predictions are “easy”: just take the IPCC5 RMP8.5 prediction, assume it’s happening in 50 years rather than 100 years, and follow the trends. With the US government largely cowarding out of climate adaptation, we’re stuck with business as usual for at least another four years. Since we’ve got perhaps another 20 years to make any meaningful change, that window is closing awful fast. Twenty years sounds like a long time, but it’s basically one round of freeway improvements, so rebuilding the US entirely and sustainably around renewables is starting to become impossible. This is one case where disruptive innovation might actually be useful. Unfortunately, most of the 20 year road development cycle is driven by things like getting the politics to line up to get projects approved (something San Diego failed at in 2016, and will try again in 2028!), then getting the economy to swing down low enough to make it possible to afford to build the things. In San Diego, they’re already planning how to build freeways until 2050, so we’re really deep in the weeds, whether it looks like it or not.
I predict a lot of interesting science will come out, federal meltdown or no. I’m personally hoping for good numbers on global and Arctic methane cycles and budgets. There is some really good modeling going on right now as well. I’ll also go out on a limb and suggest that they’ll move the climate sensitivity parameter closer to 4°C (it’s now by model consensus around 3°C). I’m cheating here, because I just read that there’s going to be a conference this spring at Lamont Doherty to discuss just this: there’s a lot of new data coming out from plant fossils about ancient atmospheric [CO2], and it looks to be a lot lower than other proxies had estimated, meaning that the real climate sensitive parameter is higher than the models calculate. If these new techniques and data hold up, it looks like the climate jumps a lot higher in response to a given amount trapped heat than we thought it did, which is bad. Note that the jump may be higher, not faster, because there are both fast feedbacks and short feedbacks, and we’ve got a better handle on the short term than the multidecadal long term. That might be the difference between climate sensitivity of closer to 3°C or closer to 4°C.
Anyway, I could go on, about increased international isolationism, cracks enlarging in the Westphalian nation model due to increased climate-forced migration, but I’ve said enough. What would you add?
*I don’t think people who treat baptism as a magical get-out-of-hell-free-for-eternity card qualify as Christians, but I’m a snotty materialist anyway. If self-labeled Christians aren’t actually trying to practice the Golden Rule and are worshiping a white plaster cross as an idol, what’s Christian about their beliefs? You may differ on this.
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