Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

The Trump card

  • Written by  Marco Magrini
  • Published in Climate
The Trump card Joseph Sohm
27 Jan
In the first of a series of columns covering the world of climate change, Marco Magrini looks at the new Paris Agreement’s survival chances

Last year, US senator Jim Inhofe threw a snowball while delivering a speech on the floor of the United States Senate, supposedly to demonstrate that climate change was ‘a hoax’. This Christmas though, with abnormally high temperatures from Washington DC to the North Pole, the Republican senator from Oklahoma would have had a snowball’s chance in hell of finding another one to toss.

The main problem is that conservative legislators may be still confusing short-term weather patterns with long-term climate change. This makes any prospective political change troublesome.

The climate treaty agreed in Paris two months ago by 194 nations, was custom-designed by the world’s diplomats to steer clear of the need for a US Congress ratification, as it would have never survived a trip to Capitol Hill. The Paris Agreement, for example, doesn’t prescribe any binding greenhouse gas emission reductions, just voluntary cuts.

By this stage of the global game, 21 years of gruelling negotiations can’t be jeopardised if a signing country decides on being a defector. Unfortunately there is one country that can still single-handedly upset the apple cart. Whether it’s by rolling back Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, or simply by renouncing any voluntary reductions, a new resident in the White House could easily undermine this remarkable, world-encompassing achievement.

The most relevant date in this year’s climate calendar is not COP22 – the follow-up to Paris. Instead it is an event just one day later: the 58th US presidential elections

Needless to say, this is not about Democratic Party hopeful Hillary Clinton, who spoke out against Keystone XL (the pipeline for Canada’s dirty tar sands oil) well before Obama gave it the thumbs down. Instead it’s all about the Republicans.

The only GOP candidate supporting actions on climate change was Lindsey Graham, who happened to drop out of the presidential race after a dismal run in the polls. All the remaining contenders, beginning with front runner Donald Trump (who stayed surprisingly silent after the Paris treaty was signed), consider the international agreement designed to stave off the worst consequences of climate change as being anything from a ‘farce’ to a ‘threat’ to American sovereignty. ‘While some may claim the deal is a grand triumph,’ wrote Kentucky congressman Ed Whitfield in an opinion piece for The Washington Examiner, ‘the bottom line is that this was a non-binding political document that does not impose any new obligation on the United States.’

A recent Pew Research Center survey in America, found ‘global climate change is a very serious problem’ for 20 per cent of Republican and 68 per cent of Democratic voters. One ponders why such a tangible effect, measured and proven by scientific means, should be for left-wingers only – but this is the situation we have. Curiously, the same survey reveals that such a tendency is somewhat confirmed in every Western nation, from Australia to Germany, from Canada to the UK. But nowhere is it as radicalised as in the US (a 48-point margin is huge), maybe courtesy of a notoriously generous fossil-fuel lobby so inclined to spread its own views.

In other words, the most relevant date in this year’s climate calendar is not COP22 – the follow-up to Paris, being held this time in Marrakesh, Morocco, starting on 7 November. Instead it is an event scheduled just one day later: the 58th US presidential elections. The world is holding its breath and no one is entirely sure when it will breathe freely once more.

This article was published in the February 2016 edition of Geographical magazine.

Related items


geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

geo line break v3


DurhamBath Spa600x200 Greenwich Aberystwythherts




Travel the Unknown

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...


With growing global awareness of the risks of hunting and…


Researchers have identified the extent of microplastic contamination throughout the…


The Thames Estuary has long been home to heavy industry,…


Whydahs and indigobirds, collectively known as the vidua finches, show…


Whales sequester an enormous amount of carbon, making their protection…


In his ongoing photographic project, Carpathia, Nicholas J R White…


Artificial intelligence offers high potential solutions to the climate crisis,…


Rewilding projects across Europe are working to expand populations of…


Scientists are racing to prevent a deadly disease that kills…


Birds are a much-loved component of the natural world, serenading…


The unprecedented pause in human activity that took place during…


Since 2006, tiger habitats have shrunk by more than 40…


Advances in space-based lightning mapping have allowed scientists to measure…


The amount of energy used by the wealthy minority dwarfs…


Left denuded and depleted of wildlife following a decades-long civil…


Katie Burton explores the practicalities and ethics of geoengineering, the…


Though the pandemic has gripped the world's attention, lying just…


The IPCC embraced the notion of carbon offset schemes in…