Can a single person derail the world’s unanimous resolution to try saving the planet, better known as the Paris Agreement? As improbable as it may seem, if that person occupies a desk in the Oval Office, the answer is affirmative. ‘The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.’ So tweeted Donald Trump, the man about to take the seat behind that desk.
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 6 November 2012
If the United States, a long-time leader in fossil fuel emissions, decide to walk out of the international agreement signed in 2015, they may indeed encourage a few other countries to do the same, triggering a backlash with ominous long-term consequences. However, the post-electoral Trump said recently to the New York Times: ‘I have an open mind to it. We’re going to look very carefully’, something very far from what the pre-electoral Trump declared. Since it looks like Hillary Clinton won’t be prosecuted, a Mexican wall won’t be erected, and Muslims won’t be banned from American soil, maybe coal-fired plants won’t be allowed to spew as much carbon dioxide as they want either. But you never know. The president-elect has already announced that Myron Ebell, a renowned climate change contrarian, will lead his transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency. After a deluge of words, we can’t help but wait for facts.
“Whatever the upcoming Oval Office tenant may think, we just cannot afford to play heads or tails with Earth’s thermometer”
Still, it is doubtful that anybody could derail the world’s logical transition to clean energy sources. Market forces uphold more long-term investments in renewables than in fossil fuels. Technological innovation keeps on pushing down prices at a steady pace, while billions of dollars are being spent on chasing the next breakthrough. China, which didn’t invent climate change or thinks it is a hoax, is already the number one producer and installer of solar panels and wind turbines in the world. An America sticking to its vast coal and shale oil reserves would be ‘non-competitive’ on this front, too.
Finally, it is never a good idea to turn your back on science. Last year was the hottest on record and our budding 2017 could become even hotter, another step in an alarming string of records. Whatever the upcoming Oval Office tenant may think, we just cannot afford to play heads or tails with Earth’s thermometer.
This was published in the January 2017 edition of Geographical magazine.