The evidence for global warming as a product of human activity is overwhelming, see: http://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/ . In this report we read: “97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree [that] climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. In addition, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position”. Among the multiple scientific organizations subscribing to this position is the one representing my profession, the Geological Society of America: “The Geological Society of America (GSA) concurs with assessments by the National Academies of Science (2005), the National Research Council (2006), and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007) that global climate has warmed and that human activities (mainly greenhouse‐gas emissions) account for most of the warming since the middle 1900s".
Such an overwhelming scientific consensus has led to a geopolitical consensus, reached by 197 nations in Paris last December 2015, in which these nations essentially agreed to make all necessary efforts to limit global warming to no more than two degrees Celsius above the existing average temperature and to accomplish a transition from a high to a low carbon economy. As of today 103 of the 197 countries have ratified this agreement, including the United States. A gigantic international effort has been put in motion to try to reach this important goal. Failure to accomplish it will result into significant meteorological disasters involving floods, droughts, desertification and decimation of animal and vegetal species. The situation we are witnessing today, if unchecked, will lead to major disturbances of the planet’s climate resulting in natural catastrophes and could even lead to war among governments with conflicting views on the issue.
The victory of Donald Trump in the recent U.S. presidential elections could introduce such major changes in the posture of the United States government in relation to this issue that they could seriously threaten the integrity of the Paris Agreement. In a summary of Mr. Trump’s first 100 days in power, see: http://www.npr.org/2016/11/09/501451368/here-is-what-donald-trump-wants-to-do-in-his-first-100-days we read that he would "cancel the Paris climate agreement and stop all payments of U.S. tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs." The elected president is also reported as saying that he would keep promoting the exploitation of coal, the intensive use of fracking to generate shale oil and shale gas and allow the utilization of federal lands for oil and gas drilling. He has also promised to ask TransCanada to renew its permit application for the Keystone XL pipeline.
A more detailed list of his announced policies, made with the assistance of Harold Hamm, who might be his choice for Secretary of Energy, include the following statements, see: https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/The-First-100-Days-of-Energy-Policy-in-The-Trump-Administration :
- "Rescind all the job-destroying Obama executive actions including the Climate Action Plan..."
- "We're going to save the coal industry, we're going to save that coal industry, believe me, we're going to save it, I love those people, these are great people -- and they love that job."
- "I'm going to ask TransCanada to renew its permit application for the Keystone Pipeline."
- "We're going to lift moratoriums on energy production in federal areas."
- "We're going to revoke policies that impose unwarranted restrictions on new drilling technologies."
- "We're going to cancel the Paris Climate Agreement and stop all payments of U.S. tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs."
In addition to Mr. Trump’s announcements, The Republican Party Energy platform states:
- Coal is “an abundant, clean, affordable, reliable domestic energy resource," adding, "Those who mine it and their families should be protected from the Democratic Party’s radical anti-coal agenda."
- "Keeping energy in the earth will keep jobs out of reach of those who need them most."
- "We support the development of all forms of energy that are marketable in a free economy without subsidies, including coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear power, and hydropower."
- "We encourage the cost-effective development of renewable energy sources -- wind, solar, biomass, biofuel, geothermal, and tidal energy -- by private capital."
Not all these stated policies are negative. Promoting the production of light oil from shales can have a positive impact on the environment, if such production displaces heavier, more contaminating oil being currently produced in Canada, Russia and Venezuela. The Republican Party platform does not exclude the development of cleaner forms of energy, although they make it clear that such promotion will have to come exclusively from the private sector.
However, Mr. Trump’s purpose of abandoning the global agreement reached in Paris by practically all nations in the planet has to be seen as a major threat to humanity. The Paris agreement has been designed to convert the current high carbon model into a low carbon model and Mr. Trump’s policies would greatly endanger this objective.
In the recent Marrakesh Climate Change conference, held to reaffirm the purposes of the Paris agreement, the policies announced by Donald Trump came as a major shock. In that conference, the countries expressed the hope that Trump would reconsider his announced intentions regarding such a fundamental global project. Others were less optimistic. Michael Brune, Sierra Club’s Director, said: “Donald Trump has the unflattering distinction of being the only head of state in the entire world to reject the scientific consensus that humans are driving climate change”.
Disregarding the Paris agreement could cause a major political crisis in the world and could lead to universal condemnation for the United States. It would be unthinkable that the United States could emerged as the main saboteur of an agreement reached by practically all countries of earth to protect the environment.
In recent days, Mr. Trump has somewhat retreated from his original position and now says: “I have an open mind about global warming and now feel there is some linkage between global warming and human activity”.
Let us hope that the great humanistic tradition of this country prevails over selfish, nationalistic interests.