Climate Change

Paul Arbair, Paul Arbair, June 26, 2017

(Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change has sparked a global uproar. Yet America’s reluctance to reduce its use of fossil fuels is, in fact, logical. Not only because of the U.S. president’s overt denial of man-made climate change, but also and more fundamentally because it reflects America’s historical essence and trajectory.)

So he did it. Donald J. Trump, 45th president of the United States of America, finally announced his decision to withdraw his country from the Paris Agreement on climate change. According to the White House occupant, this agreement negotiated by the Obama administration was a ‘bad deal’ for America, undermining its competitiveness and jobs, costing millions to its taxpayers, imposing disproportionate and unfair restrictions on its carbon emissions, and weakening its sovereignty. This agreement, he said, “is less about the climate and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage over the United States”. It is “a massive redistribution of United States wealth to other countries”, and “the American family will suffer the consequences in the form of lost jobs and a very diminished quality of life.” Such a bad deal is unacceptable to a president who has pledged to ‘Make America Great Again’ and to put America and its workers first.

Obviously, Trump’s core supporters have cheered this momentous decision. The billionaire real estate mogul-turned-president, they say, has made good on a pledge he made during last year’s campaign, showing once again that he meant what he said. The rest of America, on the other hand, as well as much of the world, couldn’t be more outraged. By reneging on its commitment to help fight climate change alongside the international community, America is abdicating its claim to global leadership, many argue. By joining the group of countries that are not signed up to deal reached in the French capital in December 2015, a group that so far comprises only Nicaragua and Syria, it is even turning into a ‘rogue state’, some suggest. A state that rejects science, progress and enlightened values, choosing instead a one-way trip back to the ‘Dark Ages’. A state that cannot anymore be relied upon, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel put it just a few days ago, or even that represents a growing danger to the world. Sad!

In the U.S., Trump’s announcement has triggered a sharp reaction from cities, states and businesses, which have vowed to meet U.S. climate commitments regardless of what Washington says or does. More than 1,000 city mayors, state governors, college and university leaders, businesses, and investors signed a “We Are Still In” open letter to the international community, saying they are committed to delivering concrete carbon emissions reductions that will help meet America’s emissions pledge under the Paris Agreement. Billionaire and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg even promised to provide up to $15 million in funding that he says the United Nations will lose as a result of President Trump’s decision to pull out from the climate deal. Emblematic CEOs such as Tesla’s Elon Musk and Disney’s Robert Iger announced they would quit Trump advisory councils, and anti-Trump demonstrations have been held across the country.

Outside the U.S., the reaction has been no less virulent, and Donald Trump’s decision has been vehemently condemned across the international community. Emmanuel Macron, the young and newly elected French president, rebuked his U.S. counterpart in a televised speech – the first speech ever given in English by a French President from the Elysée Palace – condemning his decision as a historic “mistake” and issuing a call to “make our planet great again“. This call, a direct jibe at Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ election slogan, went immediately viral on social media… The leaders of the European Union and China, backed by India and Japan, announced they would fully implement the Paris Agreement despite Washington’s withdrawal. The deal, they insisted, is not up for renegotiation, despite what the U.S. president might say. Trump’s decision, many observers suggested, could actually trigger a wide-ranging geopolitical shake-up that would isolate the U.S., or even make it a ‘global pariah’, and hand China a chance for global leadership.

Beyond America’s geopolitical standing and diplomatic reputation, the reactions to Donald Trump’s decision have of course focused on what it may mean for the planet’s climate. A number of observers have suggested that the American president might actually be doing the world and global climate a favour: outside of the Paris deal, the U.S. will not be in a position to block progress as it has done so many times in the past on climate negotiations, and the rest of the world will therefore be able to step up its efforts. The ‘climate revolution’ they say, is already unstoppable anyway, including in the U.S. The stunning growth of renewable energies, fuelled by rapid technological progress and by their falling costs, will ensure that the ‘decarbonisation’ of the global economy accelerates in the coming years, whatever Mr. Trump may say or do.

Most analysts and climate activists, however, consider that the U.S. withdrawal will severely undermine the international community’s fight against climate change. The disengagement of the world’s only superpower and current second largest CO2 emitter – and by far the biggest carbon polluter in history – might in fact weaken the Paris Agreement in many ways. Not only because it may reduce incentives for some countries that only reluctantly signed up to the deal to meet their voluntary emissions reductions pledges, but also because it may slow down the pace of technological progress needed to enable the transition to ‘clean energy’. The U.S. indeed remains the world’s technological powerhouse, and a lot of the ‘solutions’ required to accelerate the deployment and use of renewable energies (e.g. concerning electricity storage or carbon capture) are expected to come from its research labs and tech companies. Without sufficient political support and government funding, these solutions may take longer to be developed, or even never emerge. In addition, America’s withdrawal will also undermine the Green Climate Fund, which aims to help developing countries reduce emissions and adapt to the changes already set in motion by past emissions, and to which the U.S. was the largest contributor in absolute terms. Trump’s decision, hence, appears to many as an irresponsible move, a ‘moral disgrace’ or even a ‘crime against humanity’. Future generations will reap catastrophes and conflicts, and “people will die” because of this reckless withdrawal, some have warned.

Joe Mahon, Telegraph, June 26, 2017

An annual coaching programme in Whistler has been cancelled for the first time in almost 30 years, with the founder commenting that “global warming has decimated the glacier and our ability to run a summer camp.”

Ian Dunlop and David Spratt, Climate Code Red, June 21, 2017

This is an extract from Disaster Alley: Climate change, security and risk published today by Breakthrough National Centre from Climate Restoration.

Robert McSweeney, CarbonBrief, June 20, 2017

Up to three quarters of the world’s population could be at risk from deadly heat extremes by the end of the century, a new study suggests.

The research finds that just under a third of the global population is currently exposed to heat extremes that have resulted in deaths in the past. This will increase as global temperatures rise.

Keeping global warming to less than 2C above pre-industrial levels would limit the number at risk from potentially lethal heatwaves to around half of the global population.

Ketan Joshi, The Guardian, June 7, 2017

Long after we each cease to exist, the physical outcomes of the choices we make today, and tomorrow, will linger. Shadows of our decisions on policy, energy and lifestyle will manifest as the consequence of our injection of greenhouse gases into the Earth’s atmosphere.

John Oliver, Youtube, June 6, 2017

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver 4 June 2017 HD : Paris Agreement - Last Week Tonight 6/4/17 HBO"

Yavor Tarinski, Resilience, June 6, 2017

Despite many international meetings, dealing with every subject from biodiversity to climate change, the national political elites have found it impossible to come to meaningful agreements to deal with the environmental crisis. […] There is no avoiding imagining new and different scenarios than the status quo. Surely another world is possible.”
– Dimitrios Roussopoulos[1]

We live in times where there seems to be a crisis in just about everything – from the so called financial sector, through the contemporary mass migratory processes, to the severe corrosion of the social fabric. The ruling elites, devoted to the dominant doctrine of economism, advocate for the priority that should be given to the economy, many activists struggle for the humane treatment of migrants, while growing numbers of new age mysticists call for escapism and individual salvation.

One crisis in particular, however, is being unevenly neglected, in comparison with the above mentioned crises – the climate one. There is reason why this serious problem is being constantly postponed by those in seats of power. Unlike the financial crisis, which offers a wide playground for different economic “shamans” to put forward their theories that do not leave the imaginary of economism, the climate change and the ongoing environmental degradation questions the contemporary dogmas of constant growth and domination, demanding solutions beyond them. Surely there are international summits and agreements for tackling this problem, but their outcomes are nonbinding and often neglected in the expense of economic “prosperity”.

The climate crisis, as growing number of researches are revealing, will have us pay a dear cost for the wasteful and destructive lifestyle that capitalism promotes. It will even deepen the rest of the ongoing crises. It is not yet completely clear what exact effects and processes will be triggered by the climate change, but it is increasingly clear that the results will not be favorable to us, unless we decide to change the contemporary dominant paradigm with a new one that will allow us to develop our potential inside the planetary limits.

Joseph Green, June 6, 2017

On Thursday, June 1, Trump announced that he will withdraw the United States from the Paris Accord on climate change. This is the accord stemming from the UN Climate Summit of December 2015 in Paris. From day one of his presidency, Trump has been doing his best to roll back any environmental protections, and the withdrawal from the Paris Accord is his overall declaration of climate change denialism.

Sean Sweeney and John Treat , Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, June 5, 2017

Discussion document submitted to Labor for Our Revolution (LFOR):

This memorandum proposes an analysis and provisional framework around which to construct an ambitious and effective agenda for progressive labor to respond to the converging environmental crises, and to pursue a rapid, inclusive approach to energy transition and social justice.

Carol Dansereau, CounterPunch, June 5, 2017

By Carol Dansereau - CounterPunch, June 2, 2017

The global warming situation is absolutely crazy.  Millions of people are already experiencing drought, famine, floods, wildfires, superstorms and other climate disasters.  As a species, we are teetering on the edge of full-blown catastrophe, with extinction a distinct possibility.  Yet, we can’t seem to put in place obvious solutions that are sitting right there in front of us.

Even crazier, environmentalists repeatedly praise Democrats for phony climate action plans that don’t come close to what’s needed.

Take the “100 by ‘50” legislation recently introduced by Oregon Senator Merkley and other Democrats.  Environmental leaders lined up to celebrate this as the blueprint that will get us beyond global warming, even though it’s nothing of the sort.  Some environmentalists used their endorsements to denounce Republicans for being funded by the fossil fuel industry, deftly ignoring the funding received by Democrats from that same industry.  The message was clear: when we put Democrats back in power and pass a bill like “100 by ‘50”, we’ll be on our way to solving the climate crisis.

This is pure hogwash.  The Democrats have kept us running in circles as the climate crisis has deepened.   And although this new bill purports to get us to 100% clean and renewable energy by 2050—hence the catchy title—it almost certainly won’t do that.  Yes, it is “the most ambitious piece of climate legislation Congress has ever seen”.  But that’s only because prior offerings were so pathetic that “100 by ’50” seems ambitious in comparison.

It’s crucial that we understand this as Donald Trump and the Republicans move forward with their horrifying agenda.  More than ever, we need to be uniting behind a real climate action plan and the broader vision for society it engenders.  We need to be building a movement that has a clear understanding of where our power lies and how to use it.

Pages

Subscribe to Climate Change