Given the week that has just past, it would be remiss of me not to utilise the friendly reminder of “it’s your turn to write a blog” to reflect on the events of last week, which may have far-reaching ramifications for the field we work in. So ignoring my parent’s advice of “never bring up politics at a dinner party”….. here I go… the results of the US election.
I’m not going to discuss the campaign details or the nuances of US society that resulted in a Republican party win on 9/11 (you may read into that date what you will). But I would like to focus on the reason that the American election has an impact on us, sitting half way across the world in a country seemingly unrelated to the USA. To do that, I am going to focus on an extract from the new president’s website (https://www.greatagain.gov/policy/energy-independence.html) outlining the energy policy for his tenure.
“Rather than continuing the current path to undermine and block America’s fossil fuel producers, the Trump Administration will encourage the production of these resources by opening onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands and waters. We will streamline the permitting process for all energy projects, including the billions of dollars in projects held up by President Obama, and rescind the job-destroying executive actions under his Administration. We will end the war on coal, and rescind the coal mining lease moratorium, the excessive Interior Department stream rule, and conduct a top-down review of all anti-coal regulations issued by the Obama Administration. We will eliminate the highly invasive ‘Waters of the US’ rule, and scrap the $5 trillion dollar Obama-Clinton Climate Action Plan and the Clean Power Plan and prevent these unilateral plans from increasing monthly electric bills by double-digits without any measurable effect on Earth’s climate. Energy is the lifeblood of modern society.”
Now for those of us who work in climate change…… no let me rephrase that, for those of us who care about climate change, that little paragraph is seemingly pretty devastating news. If these policies are implemented, is not just about how it will impact America, it is about the global ramifications. It is a major setback to everything we have fought to implement to curb climate change and is a supposed crushing blow to the Paris agreement.
However, the reality is that this kind of short-term thinking may indeed provide the US’s economy with a short-term boost which will look very good for the Republican party and may even get them re-elected for a second term. We all know the long-term consequences to this kind of short term economy building are expensive……to say the least, not just for America but for the world. Unchecked climate change will have expensive impacts on immigration, international trade, food supply, water…….. the list goes on. But politicians are in the game of instant economy building, not serving the environment. Tangible economy building buys recognition from the electorate and leaves a legacy of success or failure. No one wants to be remembered as a failure….. well not in the short term anyway.
So, in reality, isn’t what the Trump administration proposing really just an overt reflection of what is going on behind the closed doors of many countries anyway? There is a lot of talk of action on climate change and agreements signed and ratified. There have even been 22 COPs discussing the issue. But tangible, real action on climate change from any government of the world is still hard to identify. There is something to be said for knowing the cards being played – which is what the Trump administration have provided for us.
What Trump has done is fired up people to fight back rather than being lulled into a false sense of security. Statements such as the one on his website incite action and perhaps this is the best outcome of all! His policies have already inspired research on the Trump administration impact on climate change. Estimates are that, if the proposed policies come to fruition, two-terms of the Trump administration will mean 3.4 billion tonnes more carbon in the atmosphere than the proposed Clinton administration. These kinds of numbers are alarming and causing people to sit up and take notice. At least now we know what we are up against and we are angry about it. So we have a trumpet to blow here too, at the end of the day, government policies are just policies, it is the individual action that will have the real impact.