Image credit: Ethan Miller - Getty Images

President Trump: the End of Tackling Climate Change?

Image credit: Ethan Miller - Getty Images
Image credit: Ethan Miller – Getty Images

The most powerful man in the world does not believe in man-made climate change. Can we afford him ‘cancelling’ the UN’s Paris Agreement?  

Advocates of climate change anxiously watched the US elections last night. The Marrakech UN summit hit the panic button following the election of Donald Trump, a man who has described global warming as a concept ‘created by and for the Chinese’.

The groundbreaking Paris Climate Agreement 2015 was pictured as a historical breakthrough in tackling climate change and carbon emissions. It was a feat of diplomatic brilliance, with 193 countries across the globe signing the Agreement – a level of cooperation that is unheard of international law and politics. As of the 4th November 2016, the Agreement entered into force. Over 55% of global emissions were accounted for, with even more countries set to ratify the Agreement and increase this percentage.

The main provisions of the Paris Agreement include

  • To keep global temperatures “well below” 2.0C (3.6F) above pre-industrial times and “endeavour to limit” them even more, to 1.5C
  • To limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to the same levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally, beginning at some point between 2050 and 2100
  • To review each country’s contribution to cutting emissions every five years so they scale up to the challenge
  • For rich countries to help poorer nations by providing “climate finance” to adapt to climate change and switch to renewable energy.

Much of the Agreement was tailored to the US and their climate change sceptic stance. Legally binding targets were disregarded as they knew they would not pass through a heavily Republican and denialist congress.  Previous climate agreements, such as the Kyoto Protocol, failed because of the lack of involvement of the US – the world could not afford for the US to not sign up to the Agreement again so made do without these binding targets.

The US only constitutes 5% of the world population, yet contributes 16.5% of the world’s carbon emissions. To avoid a 4 degree increase in global temperature by 2100, the US needed a President committed to tackling global warming with the Paris Agreement. But Trump has previously stated that he wants to dismantle the accord – suggesting the ‘financial resources’ would be wasted on tackling the issue.

Mr Trump could “simply withdraw” the US from the climate agreement as Obama used an executive order to sign up to the Agreement. The deliberate design of the Agreement to avoid the need for congress is set to have proved useless if Trump goes ahead with his plans. Even more concerning, the progress and targets outlined in the Agreement are seriously threatened whilst Trump maintains this viewpoint.

What else has Trump said about global warming?

Trump has denied much of the content of these tweets, saying ‘I did not say that.’

Is this enough to give climate change advocates enough hope that he will change his stance towards anthropogenic global warming?

Khalid Pitts, the national political director of the Sierra Group (an environmental group) sums up the concerns with President Trump perfectly in a statement made before the election results.

World leaders change, but Donald Trump’s total ignorance of science remains the same.

Electing a climate science conspiracy theorist like Trump would make America a global laughing stock and embarrassment, all while relinquishing our leadership role in the world.

The ice caps don’t negotiate, and neither do rising seas. Donald Trump’s moral failure to acknowledge the climate crisis might very well mean planetary disaster.”

We can only hope that when Trump comes into Office he has a realisation of the responsibility he has been given, and can just as easily throw away.

To follow the progress of ratification of the Paris Agreement, visit the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change website.

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Becca Williams

Becca Williams

Becca Williams

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