Climate change and politics

by Arvin Charles

DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in this article are written prior to Trump’s recent back paddling on his views in regards to climate change.

September 2016 has officially been the month in which the world exceeded the dreaded 400ppm carbon dioxide mark. Climate Central reported that scientists have confirmed the level of carbon dioxide will never drop below the 400ppm mark in our lifetime, even if somehow zero emission of carbon dioxide is achieved. Amidst this major blow to the world, the struggle to reduce the threat of global warming has never lost its incitement. On the contrary, this has stirred a greater awareness of how real climate change is and how rapidly the clock is ticking on the race to save our planet.

Paris Climate Agreement.

A message is displayed on the Eiffel Tower in conjunction with the 21st World Climate Conference of Parties (COP21) in December 2015. -FRANCOIS MORI/AP

One huge milestone in our combat against climate change is the initiative taken by the United Nations called the Paris Climate Agreement which was proposed during the 21st session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention (COP21). This agreement is acclaimed to be the first international climate agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The Paris Accords aim to limit the rise of global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius with a reference of 1.5ºC and also simultaneously evolve the world’s fossil fuel driven economy within a span of decades. Almost 200 countries have confirmed their participation in the agreement which was only recently implemented on the 4th of November 2016.

President Obama was among the world leaders who strongly accepted and hailed the deal, stating that this agreement marked a turning point for the world.

“The agreement represents the best chance we have to save the one planet that we’ve got.” President Obama said after signing the agreement.

Aftermath of the US Presidential Elections.

Being the second largest climate polluter in the world, it is important that the United States continue to show their support and comply with the Paris agreements. However, the election of Donald Trump as President-elect of the United States of America is forecasted to result in a withdrawal of the US from the Paris accords.

We are all familiar with Trump’s claims of climate change being a hoax from China to make US manufacturing uncompetitive, however what raises the eyebrows of environmentalists and scientists around the world is Trump’s movement towards maximizing the production of fossil fuels in the United States, According to Trump, America’s incredible energy potential remains untapped especially after the shale oil boom in the US, thanks to advances in hydraulic fracturing (fraking) technology. This lead to his ever famous America First energy plan, in which he explicitly mentioned that he will cancel the Paris climate agreement and stop the payment of US taxpayer money to global warming efforts by the UN. During his campaign, Trump was particularly interested in expanding the coal mining industry, a total contrast to Hilary Clinton’s campaign to put an end to coal mining in the US and promoting renewable sources of energy.

Donald Trump posing with a hard hat in a rally at Charleston CREDIT STEVE HELBER/AP PHOTO

Coming from Trump’s perspective, this move will bring about a positive shift to the US economy. The number of job opportunities will sky rocket, wages will increase and the US will forego the need to import energy as a consequence of Trump’s plan to remove environmental regulations and adopt an unfettered production of oil and gas and the mining of coal. Although this may seem like a tempting solution to the US economy, will this move mean that the Paris Accords will crumble to pieces without America’s involvement in combating global warming?

Effects of leaving the Paris Accords.

An interesting school of thought, is that Trump’s policy may actually stir a greater campaign against climate change. According to BBC, following Trump’s notion to withdraw from the Paris Accords, other major contributors namely China and India have reiterated their unwavering support for the climate agreement and honored their commitments to the cause, which is contradictory to the popular fear that many countries will leave the accords and follow the US’s footsteps. Indirectly, this has created a sense of unity among the parties of the conference and forged a stronger need for the continuation of the accords.

Hundreds protest in Marakech during the 22nd United Nations Conference of Parties (COP22) against cimate change and urge global leaders to act. MOSA’AB ELSHAMY/AP

Trump’s new policy may also create a greater awareness for climate change, following a sharp rise in environmental movements. A good example would be the protest in Marrakech during the United Nations Climate Conference comprising of youths and activists after Trump’s election as commander-in-chief of the US. Experts have also predicted that Trump’s movement to revive the Keystone pipeline may lead to the birth of a whole new generation of climate activists.

On the flip side, could Donald Trump be emulating the former Republican president, George Bush, who retracted from the Kyoto Protocol, yet another initiative to curb global warming that went to shambles in the beginning of the millennium because America pulled out? Will Mr. Trump’s ambition to ‘Make America Great Again’ force the rest of the world to sit on the sidelines and watch on as global warming accelerates out of control? To paraphrase the President-elect himself from his acceptance speech, “Complicated business, folks, complicated”.



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