The world is already looking at the Trump administration with derision after its announced withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change. And in the decades ahead, lamentations of American hubris, ignorance, and stupidity in dealing with the environmental crisis will continue to grow. Never has the scientific community been surer about the dangers of runaway global warming, and yet Americans have largely abdicated their responsibility for pressuring the government to act on this vital issue. Despite abundant evidence documenting the dangers of climate change, we have done nothing to combat the threat, and Trump’s actions will further intensify the dangers associated with growing emissions over the next few decades.
With the U.S. pull out of the Paris Agreement, what little commitment the U.S. had to combating climate change is now gone. The American right will rejoice, as they have long embraced paranoid conspiracy theories attacking environmentalists as alarmists who have been duped by scientists engaged in an elaborate hoax – one supposedly motivated by a quest for attention and grant money. Some on the left will treat the Trump administration with kids gloves, and even congratulate Trump for stripping away what was left of the fig-leaf of an American “commitment” to addressing runaway warming.
But for many of us who have been warning about the dangers associated with climate change for the last few decades, now is a time to recognize that things are moving from bad to worse. At least under the Paris Agreement, there was a framework activists could use to pressure political officials to cut emissions growth, and pursue real cuts to greenhouse gas emissions moving forward. But there’s little chance of that now under the Trump administration, with a president who is willfully ignorant on climate change, scientifically illiterate, and hell-bent on reviving a coal industry that’s been dead in the water for some time now.
I don’t want to romanticize the Paris Agreement. It’s a short-term plan that does not extend beyond a 2030 emissions target, and even if that target is met, it will merely level off global CO2 emissions, rather than reduce them. Still, the Paris Agreement is the necessary first step in avoiding the worst effects of climate change, and leveling off CO2 emissions is certainly preferable to a significant increase in those emissions in coming decades.
Who is ultimately to blame for the catastrophic state we find ourselves in today? I don’t think there is just one answer. Obviously, the fossil fuel industry is a prime culprit. Corporations like Exxon Mobil and others have known – due to their own scientific research going as far back as the late-1970s – that global warming is a very real threat.
As the above works make clear, the name of the game is convincing the public to deprioritize dealing with climate change, for fear of the negative effects government action may have on the economy and jobs. Fossil fuel-funded pundits, PR firms, and scientists don’t need to convince the public that global warming is a fraud. All they need to do is create doubt about whether climate change is a serious problem, thereby blunting the development of a critical public consciousness and any sort of real citizen push for change. And so far, the fossil fuel industry has been incredibly successful in its efforts.
As the old proverb goes: necessity is the mother of invention. Unfortunately, the necessity for action on climate change seems to be dependent on the rapidly escalating threat to human survival via global warming. This threat will have to intensify before the American public becomes willing to address the problem at hand. The election of Donald Trump demonstrates that the public is simply not yet willing to tackle the threat of climate change. When Americans will wake up from their apathy-induced climate coma remains to be seen.
This article has been excerpted from: ‘Trump and the Paris
Accord: Who’s to Blame for the Climate Change Crisis?’