Carroll County Times

Zirpoli: Back to the future

Since the government of the United States has decided to return to the past (oil and coal) and not invest in future energy sources (solar and wind), other nations are stepping forward to provide leadership on this and other big global issues.

French President Emmanuel Macron, for example, hosted a world summit last Tuesday in Paris to discuss global warming. A goal of the conference was to help businesses reduce emissions and to assist poor nations dealing with the consequences of global warming, such as flooding from rising oceans and crop destruction from rising temperatures.


Since the U.S. is the only nation in the world not a signatory of the Paris Agreement, we were not invited. However, several U.S. leaders, including former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and American business leaders, such as Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates and Elon Musk, were among the 164 people participating in the summit.

The World Bank was represented and pledged to target future grants to nations and entities that are working to combat global warming. Other financial institutions and investors made similar pledges. For example, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the largest U.S. pension fund, promised to avoid investments with polluters.


Bloomberg said that while the U.S. government has pulled out of the Paris Agreement, a coalition of state, city and private entities representing over half of the U.S. economy have pledged to remain committed to its agreements and goals. Kerry said 38 states and 90 U.S. cities have pledged their continued support. Indeed, cities up and down the Atlantic coast, from Boston to Norfolk to Miami, as well as cities along the Gulf of Mexico, from Houston to New Orleans to Tampa, are struggling to deal with repeated and costly flooding.

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Macron started a Make Our Planet Great Again campaign that offers grants to companies to help them reduce emissions. In addition, he gave several American climate scientists grants to relocate their research projects from the United States to France, where their work would be better received and supported.

Meanwhile, while world leaders met in Paris last week to discuss future global challenges, President Donald Trump held a White House ceremony to announce that the United States will return to the moon, again. The U.S. first landed on the moon 48 years ago in 1969, followed by five additional manned landings. A total of 12 Americans walked on the moon between 1969 and 1972. Why are we going back? Did we leave something there? Trump explained that, “This time we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprint, we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars and perhaps someday to many worlds beyond.”

Is Trump aware that his recent tax cut, which will add at least a trillion dollars to our national debt, will make funding for any new NASA projects difficult — if not impossible — especially given the fact that a moon landing project would cost many times more than NASA’s total annual $19 billion budget?

Trump, of course, had nothing to say about how his new moon mission would be funded and, unlike President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 pledge to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade, Trump announced no plan or timeline. Like so many of Trump’s pronouncements, this one was all about the show.

So while the rest of the world is working together to save our planet from flooding and destruction (see 2017 hurricane record and California forest fires) enhanced by global warming, the United States is going to repeat a 48-year-old accomplishment to land a man on the moon.

Little did we know that when Trump said that he would “Make America Great Again” he meant that we would repeat great things America accomplished in the past, such as landing a man on the moon. I wonder if Trump has other big announcements in mind. Will he tell us that the U.S. will land a rover on Mars, find a vaccine for polio, or send a submarine to the bottom of the ocean? Yes, we did all those things already, but wasn’t it great? Why work in partnership with other nations to deal with new and challenging problems, like global warming, when we can simply repeat the past and relive the memories that made us feel … great!

Progress is so overrated.