Right now, experts, lawmakers, and activist organizations are meeting in Morocco to discuss the current state of the fight against dangerous climate change. It’s the annual gathering run by the UN, and this time last year, it took place in Paris, where the groundbreaking eponymous climate pact was signed.
Last week, those heading to the conference were in a buoyant mood, as the Paris agreement – driven by the US and China’s ratification – officially came into force. Now, the mood is incredibly different.
“Before, we were told our job would be to use the next months to try to push the Hillary Clinton administration to do more when it came to climate change,” Carola Ortega, a New Jersey native and student observer in Marrakech, told USA Today. “After the election, we were told we would have to try to push the Trump administration to do something, anything.”
Officially, there was a positive tone, but it’s clear that people were putting on a brave face. The head of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), for example, spoke of how the new administration is a new chance to “surge forward on climate action.”
Michael Brune, the head of the Sierra Club – a climate change pressure group – summed up what most academics, researchers, and negotiators are currently thinking. “Donald Trump has the unflattering distinction of being the only head of state in the entire world to reject the scientific consensus that humans are driving climate change.”
An election watch party full of environmentalists and summit delegates described how the atmosphere quickly turned funereal as the night ended with Trump as the President-elect. Their fear over the possibility of a climate denier being the most powerful person in the world, unfortunately, isn’t unsubstantiated.
Getting that Paris agreement together, and making sure it was brought into force, took about two decades of work and unprecedented international cooperation. It was the only hope of stopping the end of the century being rife with climatological nightmares. It’s fair to say that experts are despondent.
A Clinton administration would have worked to strengthen the pact over time, something which it sorely needed and indeed underscored in the wording of its framework. Regardless, even if the hallowed 2°C (3.6°F) warming limit was breached – and most experts think that it probably would have been unless fossil fuel usage dropped off immediately – it would have likely prevented 4°C (7.2°F) of warming by 2100.
By all accounts, this would be catastrophic. 2°C of warming will see more powerful hurricanes and increased conflict and famine in developing nations. Millions living alongside coastlines will be displaced by rising seas. 4°C would be a completely changed world, both scorched and submerged to extreme degrees.
The Paris agreement is legally binding now, and it would take the US four years to pull out of it. In two years’ time, a Democratic-controlled Senate, and perhaps House of Representatives, may have appeared, which would give lawmakers the power to block President Trump’s attempt to renege from the climate pact.
There is hope that it will be rescued from this political abyss, but in the meantime, it seems likely that plenty of damage to it will be done. At the very least, Trump can simply ignore the agreement until he has signed enough legislation to attempt to officially withdraw from it.
“We're not giving up the fight and neither should the international community,” May Boeve from 350.org told BBC News. “Trump will try and slam the brakes on climate action, which means we need to throw all of our weight on the accelerator.”
[H/T: USA Today]