Donald Trump’s Presidency Presents a Threat to the Entire Planet, Literally (Audio)
Issues like the economy, foreign policy, healthcare, and immigration all dominated the 2016 presidential campaign. What all of these issues have in common is they all require a living planet in order to function. As such, one would think the issue of climate change would be the foremost issue of any politician’s platform, but as the recent series of presidential debates proved, there was apparently no room for a single question on the matter. Such a glaring omission failed to acknowledge not only the seriousness of global warming, but also the great strides the country has made under President Obama, who in 2015 led the U.S. in a historic climate-change summit in Paris.
Now that Donald Trump is the President-Elect, his misguided views on climate change carry with them dire implications. He’s made it known that he believes the issue is a hoax, one invented by the Chinese to lead the world astray. It seems antithetical for any politician – let alone a future president – to dismiss what is arguably the most important issue of our day, but once it becomes clear that the fossil fuels industry and others have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, it becomes understandable why some politicians stand to win big by promoting similar ideologies. In fact, Trump has gone as far as arguing for a complete abandonment of the Paris climate accord. As NPR reports today (November 10), it wouldn’t be very difficult for America’s next president to walk away from that agreement. “In Paris, the world’s nations pledged to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases. But the pledges are voluntary,” reports Christopher Joyce. Former White House energy advisor Jason Bordoff says “if a country wants to just walk away from its obligations, there’s little recourse for the rest of the world other than diplomatic pressure, I think.”
America’s role in the Paris talks was integral in bringing the accord to fruition, mostly because the country is a world power and its promise to reduce carbon emissions would have enough of a positive effect on the environment that smaller countries’ pledges would be meaningful. Without the U.S., Bordoff says, the efficacy of the international agreement would diminish severely. “Bordoff notes that the Paris deal starts with modest reductions in emissions — well below the amounts scientists say are needed to avoid the worst effects of a warming climate,” the NPR report says. “It was simply too difficult to get buy-in on tougher cutbacks from many developing countries in need of cheap energy,” so “the idea was to come back in two years and toughen them up.” That’s where Trump’s vow to walk away from the agreement poses a real threat, as it would have “quite a damaging effect if the U.S. were to try to walk away from its commitments, in discouraging other countries in being as ambitious as they might otherwise be.” Furthermore, if the U.S. were in fact to back out of the deal, developing countries who were encouraged to jump on board by a $100 billion-a-year fund would undoubtedly feel taken for a “bait and switch.” That would likely cause a serious blow in the eyes of countries around the world.
If Trump were to in fact reverse Obama’s climate initiatives and walk away from the Paris agreement, the New York Times reports, “the world may have no way to avoid the most devastating consequences of global warming, including rising sea levels, extreme droughts and food shortages, and more powerful floods and storms.” John Sterman, a professor of system dynamics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote in an analysis for scientific thinktank Climate Interactive that, with Trump in the Oval Office, many of Obama’s most important climate initiatives could quite literally disappear, namely his Clean Power Plan, which aims to take drastic steps towards cutting back on harmful emissions, particularly the pollution created by power plants. “With Mr. Trump in the Oval Office and Republican majorities in both houses, there is little hope that the Clean Power Plan will survive in the Supreme Court or for federal action to meet the U.S. commitment under the Paris accord. Worse, other key emitter nations — especially India — now have little reason to follow through on their Paris pledges: If the U.S. won’t, why should developing nations cut their emissions?,” Sterman argues.