EDITORIAL: A chilling Antarctic warning about Trump’s environmental failings

SHARE EDITORIAL: A chilling Antarctic warning about Trump’s environmental failings

An unusual iceberg at Rothera Research Station, Antarctic Peninsula. | University of Washington/Ian JOUGHIN /

It’s hard to know which is accelerating faster, the melting of Antarctic ice or the Trump administration’s disdain for doing a single thing to save the planet.

On Wednesday, a team of 80 scientists reported that Antarctica’s ice sheet is melting three times faster than it was 10 years ago. Although not all of its frozen sheets are melting that quickly, the continent has enough ice to eventually, if melted, raise sea levels about 200 feet.


Try dealing with that in New York City or other low-lying coastal areas.

Meanwhile, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt — who should be raising the alarm about the melting ice — is adding a new scandal to the many federal inquiries he already faces. On Wednesday, it was reported that Pruitt directed a top government aide to get in touch with GOP donors in a quest to get his wife a job. Add that bush league move to Pruitt’s controversial luxury travel, cheap rent for a condo tied to a lobbyist, a $43,000 sound-proof phone booth in his office, a 20-person security detail and asking staffers to get him a Trump hotel mattress.

All told, Pruitt is facing 12 federal inquiries as he busily rolls back environmental protections and efforts to at least slow the pace of climate change.

As Pruitt turns his back on the environment, Antarctica is pouring more than 200 billion tons of ice into the ocean each year, which translates into a half-millimeter rise in sea levels. As the ice melts more quickly, sea levels will rise faster. Scientists worry the window of opportunity we have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and forestall the worst effects of climate change is rapidly closing.

America’s ability to respond to climate crises is hampered by more than an EPA administrator who has no evident interest in the environment. As the New York Times reported on Saturday, Trump is the first president since 1941 not to name a science adviser. Nor is there a chief scientist at the State Department, where global warming is an important issue. And Trump last year pulled America out of the Paris climate agreement.

Antarctica is roughly 9,000 miles from Chicago. But what’s happening there is a clear warning that ever-stronger storms, species die-offs, droughts, damage to the Great Lakes and other climate-change effects will show up here if we don’t act now.

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