Hayley Reifeiss ’18
Climate change is one of the greatest threats our world faces today. Carbon dioxide levels have recently surpassed the 400 ppm (parts per million) mark. This signifies a point of no return in regards to CO2 levels, the primary driving force of temperature rise. 2016 is going on record as the hottest year ever, with the global temperature threshold increasing by 1.5 degrees Celsius. Climate scientists and policy makers have agreed that two degrees Celsius increase is the maximum safe threshold. While these numbers may seem abstract and complicated, the consequences of these changes are not. Entire ecosystems are left vulnerable as habitats are destroyed and biodiversity is compromised. Places like the coral reefs, pristine beaches and rainforests, that are supposed to be the scenes of idyllic vacations, are dying at a rapid rate.
With these threats looming, significant action must be taken. Strides have been made in the last few years both nationally and globally. However, Donald Trump’s statements throughout his campaign as well as his official platform suggests his administration will not only obstruct this progress, but undo it.
On numerous occasions Trump has denied that climate change exists, calling it a “hoax” several times in his tweets. In one tweet, he claimed that global warming was a concept “created by and for the Chinese.” He has also cited instances of extreme weather, such as a blizzard, as evidence that the planet cannot be getting warmer; demonstrating not only an extreme lack of basic scientific knowledge but also an unwillingness to listen to experts on the matter. The scientific community overwhelmingly agrees that climate change is real: just ask Bill Nye or Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Lacking the knowledge that climate change is real, Trump cannot and will not take it into consideration when creating policies. Therefore, any environmental or energy policy he creates will likely be harmful to the planet.
Trump’s top choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency is Myron Ebell, a climate change denier. Ebell works for Competitive Enterprise Institute which is, according to their website, an organization “dedicated to advancing the principles of limited government.” The organization receives funding from the coal industry in order to, according to Ebell, “combat the nonsense put out by the environmental movement.” With climate change being a significant threat to the environment, having someone who does not believe in it head the very organization tasked with combating it is both counterintuitive and destructive.
In his “first 100 days” plan, Trump vows to approve the Keystone pipeline. This project was blocked by Obama when faced with vigorous opposition from environmentalists. The pipeline is not only destructive to the environment sacrificed for the pipeline’s construction from Alberta Canada to the Gulf Coast, but it also promotes a continued reliance on fossil fuels. He cites the project as a job creator, but the jobs would be temporary and as the Washington Post says, “in the context of the U.S. economy, the impact is barely a ripple.”
In the same plan, Trump vows to “lift restrictions on the production of [fossil fuels, such as] shale, oil, natural gas and clean coal.” Not only is the extraction and burning of these fuels environmentally detrimental, it is not sustainable. When the sources dry up, the jobs will dry up with them. In the short term more jobs would be available, but if Trump actually wanted to look long term he would invest in renewable energy.
In a speech on energy development, Trump said he would withdraw the United States’ support of the 2015 Paris Agreement, a monumental agreement by world leaders to cut global carbon emissions. The Obama administration was crucial to the ratification of the Paris Agreement, meeting with representatives from China to ensure mutual approval. China and the US combined, generate about 40 percent of the world’s carbon emissions. Their cooperation is crucial in the success of the agreement. Being the second largest green house gas emitter behind China, the withdrawal of US support would be a major setback to achieving the agreement’s goals. The backing out of a global superpower, such as the US, also threatens to take other countries with it.
Environmentalists around the world are so alarmed by Trump’s climate change denial that they have started a campaign led by The Sierra Club, a conservation group, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), to convince him that climate change is real. A representative from the AAAS said “I think we will be urging him to look at the evidence even before his first day because climate change is a major, historic, global problem, and he should be looking at that even now.”
Climate change is not a hoax. It is a worldwide threat. It is not only a scientific issue it is a humanitarian one. As temperatures rise and glacial ice melts, ocean levels rise. Resulting in events like stronger storms and disappearing coastlines, which disproportionately affects coastal communities and island nations that are already beginning to experience the devastating ramifications of these changes.
While Trump refuses to acknowledge this threat, other world leaders do not. In the wake of his election several countries, including China, have reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Agreement. Non profit organizations such as American Rivers, Defenders of Wild Life, and Earthjustice have vowed to work harder. Campaigns on the local level are also growing in strength with people writing their representatives asking them to vote against environmentally damaging plans. Despite being in one of the most power positions in the world, Trump cannot destroy the planet alone.