There is a Far More Urgent Reason to Impeach Trump: Climate Change | Opinion

It is not known yet whether Special Counsel Mueller's statement on the Russia investigation will boost to efforts to hold President Trump accountable for obstruction of justice. Meanwhile Trump's reckless disregard for the laws of the United States and of nature—both rule-based systems—will continue to jeopardize the future.

The President considers his own views paramount. He seems to believe his wishes as to how a system should operate is how it does operate. He might get away with flouting US law, but not nature's.

His personal contempt for the Constitutional separation of powers, which gives the Congress duties to oversee the Executive Branch, is demonstrated by his assertion that he can unilaterally determine what issues Congress can investigate and how it can do it.

In a way, he may turn out to be right. He might reasonably conclude that his chances of being held to legal account are low, and that he can expand his capacity to govern without oversight. He may be able to game the US legal system sufficiently to shift it from checks and balances toward autocratic tyranny.

Under the US justice system, courts cannot initiate prosecutions. That's up to the Department of Justice (DOJ) or Congress. As we heard from Mueller, based on its own internal protocols DOJ will not indict a sitting President, regardless of his misdeeds. Since Trump denies Congress' oversight role, practically speaking, he has taken the position that he is beyond the reach of accountability and thus above the law.

Unless Congress commences impeachment proceedings, he will remain unaccountable. The principle that a sitting President is above the law will be normalized, and the office of President could become one of unchecked, ultimate power. If that happens, then the office will attract the kind of person who wants that kind of power. Imagine what kind of leadership that will give us in twenty years.

Now imagine what kind of physical world that kind of leadership will inherit. President Trump's policies not only degrade democracy but also advance the degradation of the natural world. He denies the reality of human-induced climate change, and demonstrates indifference to the destruction of the oceans, rainforests, top soil, and biodiversity. That's qualitatively different from his mockery of the US legal system, which threatens the rule of law. His mockery of climate change threatens life.

Trump's administration has replaced policies that curbed climate change, such as EPA regulation or the Paris accord, with policies that privilege coal, oil and gas and raise emissions, like rolling back clean car and clean energy standards, or opening up public lands to fossil fuel exploitation.

These policies deny the actual order of the natural world as discovered and described by science. Confronted with a scientifically proven fact he dislikes, Trump calls it fake and believes it a sufficient rebuttal. But even if he can game the US legal system and create his own de facto legal norms, he can't create his own scientific facts or game the natural world.

Take the oceans, for example. It's a scientific fact that over 50% of the oxygen we breathe comes from oceanic phytoplankton. It's a living organism that's like our third lung—no other system generates enough of the oxygen we need to survive. Its health depends on the acidic alkaline balance of the oceans, but that is now at risk from climate change, which has injected close to a trillion tons of CO2 and over 2 quadrillion gallons of polar meltwater into the oceans in the last quarter century.

These are scientific facts President Trump can't change by fiat. Instead, he dismisses them. He ignores scientific consensus, planetary health and human survival, and disproportionately concerns himself with quarterly earnings reports, corporate profitability and his own public image. But unlike the laws of nations, the laws of nature are unchanging and brook no appeal.

Other pro-business Republican presidents respected them. When President Reagan found out that the ozone layer was at risk he became a strong supporter of the Montreal Protocol, which protected it. When President Richard Nixon learned of accelerating environmental degradation, he helped create the Environmental Protection Agency, and helped bring into force the National Environmental Protection Act.

Trump's mockery of US law is outrageous and could lead us to tyranny. But his mockery of the laws of Mother Nature is a high crime and misdemeanor of a different order of magnitude.

Whether or not Congress and the court of public opinion choose to impeach him, it will not affect nature's impeachment of our government's actions and inactions. Its early censures and subpoenas are issued in the form of tornados, floods, sea level rise, wildfires, droughts, famines, mass dislocation and migration, and worse yet to come. As its oversight shifts into higher gear, no leader, no matter how smug or autocratic, will be able to stonewall it.

But this is cold comfort, as Trump won't go down alone: he could quite literally take the country and the world with him. This is why it's essential Congress acts, before Mother Nature does.

Jonathan Granoff is president of the Global Security Institute, and United Nations Representative and Senior Advisor of the Permanent Secretariat of the World Summits of Nobel Peace Laureates. He chairs the Task Force on Nuclear Nonproliferation of the International Law Section of the American Bar Association, and is a fellow of the World Academy of Arts and Science. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​​​