Today I was saddened to see that President Trump set into motion his first, official steps toward making erroneous denial of human-induced climate change into national policy. Flanked by company executives and miners, Trump signed an executive order to nullify President Obama’s climate change efforts and revive the coal industry (yes, coal!) — effectively giving the world notice that the United States will no longer lead in the international campaign to curb global warming. This, despite the fact that the United States is the second largest climate polluter in the world.
What is there to say? According to NASA, multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that at least 97% of climate scientists agree: climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. A statement released from 18 well-regarded scientific associations states:
“Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver.”
And yet, Trump has ordered the EPA to begin withdrawing and rewriting the Clean Power Plan, which would have closed hundreds of coal-fired power plants and replaced them with vast new wind and solar farms (renewable, clean energy) — as is being done in China (the number 1 world polluter — for now).
All of this is distressing enough, without the fact that with this new direction, the United States also makes it clear to the world that we have no intention of upholding our promises as part of the Paris Climate Agreement. Overall, the goal of the Paris Agreement is to keep the climate from warming more than 3.6 degrees, the point at which scientists say the earth will be irrevocably locked into a future of severe droughts, floods, rising sea levels and food shortages. President Obama pledged that the United States would cut its emissions about 26% from 2005 levels by 2025. Carrying out the Clean Power Plan was essential to meeting that target. But never mind, we’ve changed our mind in favor of coal — an expensive, destructive energy choice that helps no one except the companies that mine it.
Never mind the impoverished coastal communities already suffering the effects of global warming — their homes and villages literally swallowed by rising sea levels. Never mind the “sunny day” flooding in Miami. Never mind the delicate balance of ecosystems that a change of even 1 degree in Fahrenheit can upset, affecting plants and animals in devastating fashion. Never mind that experts predict that one-fourth of Earth’s species will be headed for extinction by 2050 if the warming trend continues at its current rate.
What must the world think of the United States now?