With Donald Trump’s recent election success, there has been serious debate amongst commentators and policy makers as to what implications his presidency will have on the global quest to reduce environmental degradation.
Trump, prior to the election, had made a number of grand promises that would be damaging to the environment if carried out. Remarking that he would repeal all of Obama’s policies and successes made over the last 8 years, Trump declared that his presidency would usher in a renewed era of climate change denial and bring back traditional jobs in fossil fuel extraction, despite its disastrous consequences to the environment. Failing to see the bigger picture (that the cost of preventing further climate change is lower than the cost of the clean up, once damage is done), Trump has promised to repeal Obama’s block on the keystone pipeline, kill the Clean Power Plan, roll back climate change regulations and withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Agreement which only officially went into force a week before the US presidential election.
While, it would be perfectly acceptable to argue that global climate change agreements in the previous decades have not been radically ground-breaking and have made inconsequential differences to enacting real change, what has been profound is the ability for states to finally agree to take responsibility when it comes to global warming the past few years. The latest round of talks which led to the Paris Climate Agreement is crucial, as it became the first-ever, universal, legally binding global climate contract, which set out mitigation goals, ensured that support would be given to developing countries, and integrated the role of citizens at the local and regional level.
It has been pointed out that the actual legal processes to withdraw from the Paris Agreement are trickier than President-elect Trump would like it to be. It is however, his rhetoric towards the environment at this current point, which is damaging global consensus. Trump’s attitude to climate change is extremely regressive, as, by turning his back on the real potential the Paris Agreement and other successes like the Montreal protocol can have, the global shift that is required for states to avoid climate catastrophe will not happen. In an era where states are encouragingly moving towards the use and reliance on renewable energy to run their countries, the rejection, by the US, of meaningful progress will seriously undermine global cohesiveness in tackling climate change. As other states see the US cheating its way out of providing a global public good, we are at serious risk of going back to square one. Unfortunately, the consequences of this are not merely a political inconvenience but the end of the world as we know it.
As Trump begins to choose his advisors and select his teams to enforce his damaging energy policies – already appointing climate change sceptics in top positions this week – the role and attitude of the Republicans, who now hold a majority in both houses of Congress, will be of vital importance. During the republican presidential nominee debates, the candidates largely evaded the issue and republicans in general have had mixed views about the extent to which climate change is important and man-made. Without sufficient checks on Trump’s policies by the Republican Party, the US may be plunged back decades and the unprecedented cohesion needed between states, thrown into confusion.