BY COLIN MIXSON
Activists from the Sierra Club environmental group projected images and phrases on the façade of Donald Trump’s 40 Wall St. skyscraper earlier this month to protest the small army of climate-change deniers the president-elect has nominated for cabinet positions and agency heads in his new administration.
In particular, the light show singled out Trump’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency: Oklahoma attorney general and outspoken climate-change denier Scott Pruitt, who has made a career out of suing the very agency he’s now poised to lead, according to the Sierra Club’s head honcho.
“Having Scott Pruitt in charge of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is like putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires,” said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune.
The group used a projector to light up the Trump Building’s façade with an image of rising flood waters swamping the Downtown property — a scenario growing ever more likely without drastic action to slow climate change, according to recent research, as fast-melting icecaps raise sea levels and warmer oceans drive Atlantic hurricanes further north toward Manhattan.
The Sierra Club demonstrators, working with NYC-based activist The Illuminator, also projected phrases such as “Trump and Pruitt taking the ‘EP’ out of EPA,” and “Don’t let Pruitt Trump the planet,” onto neighboring buildings.
As Oklahoma attorney general, Pruitt sued the EPA over its Clean Power Plan, a policy unveiled by the Obama Administration last year that’s aimed at reducing the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions from electric power generation by 32 percent within 25 years.
Pruitt once even compared a group of Democratic state attorney generals who joined together to fight climate-change deniers in the energy industry to colonial America’s British nemesis, King George III, saying of their efforts, “Few things could be more un-American.”
The president-elect is himself an outspoken skeptic of climate science, telling Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace, “Nobody really knows. I’m somebody that gets it, and nobody really knows.”
Ironically, using Trump’s Downtown property to highlight the growing risk of rising flood levels may in fact be doing the Sierra Club’s climate-change nemesis a favor — as sea levels rise, the Trump Building may indeed be inundated.
Storms like Hurricane Sandy, which submerged parts of Lower Manhattan in several feet of water in 2012, will become ever more common over the next century, with 9-foot floods becoming anywhere between three to 17 times more likely, according to a report published in October by scientists at Princeton and Rutgers universities, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
In March, the New Jersey-based non-for-profit Climate Central unveiled a report that detailed how the increased flooding that occurred around The Battery over the past several years was a result of man-made sea-level rises.
“When a street floods with saltwater, and you can’t drive home, or you have to sandbag your store, human instinct looks for the nearby cause: it was a very high tide, or a strong wind blew from the wrong direction,” said Benjamin Strauss, vice president for sea level and climate impacts at Climate Central. “But what if the tide or the wind were not enough to tip the balance? What if the waters would not have crossed the last lip, the critical threshold, without a few inches of boost?”
Along with storms, the next century will be characterized by unprecedented rise in sea-levels that is projected to swallow 1.9 million US homes valued at $882 billion by 2100, according to real-estate database company Zillow.
Regionally, sea-levels are expected to rise by a foot over the next fifteen years, routinely inundating sixty-square miles of land throughout the tri-state area — including parts of Downtown if the neighborhood doesn’t get additional flood-proofing infrastructure — according to a report by the Regional Plan Association unveiled earlier this month.
The Sierra Club hopes that its light show will galvanize support among Trump’s opposition and pressure the president-elect into enacting policies that prevent the doomsday scenario predicted by scientists, and vowed to step up its opposition if he continues on his current path, Brune said.
“Trump must choose whether he will go down in history as the person who put our planet back on a path to climate disaster while destroying relationships with nations around the globe, or whether he will accelerate the progress we have made to tackle this crisis and build on the booming clean energy economy,” said Brune. “If Trump keeps choosing to drag us backwards to the dirty energy of the past, he will find unfettered opposition every step of the way.”