Friday, December 30, 2016

2017:  Trump Peddles Climate Doubt in a World Sold on Action

The president-elect can surround himself with climate deniers, but he will govern in a world where climate change affects almost all international dealings.

When Donald Trump takes over the U.S. presidency from Barack Obama he will face a world already committed to climate change action, and his hostility to science and action could cause diplomatic ripple effects. (Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
President-elect Donald Trump may dismiss the Paris Agreement and pack his cabinet with climate deniers, but once he takes office, he will face a world that takes the climate crisis as seriously as he does not.

He will enter a complex web of diplomatic relations, where issues like trade, finance, migration, security, poverty, food aid and disaster relief are all intertwined and all have important links to the climate agenda.  It's a world already dealing with significant climate impacts and sold on climate action.

"I am struck by the shift over the last few years in how the global community puts climate change on its agenda," Jonathan Pershing, President Obama's special envoy on climate, told InsideClimate News.  "It is now virtually everywhere."

Since the signing of the Paris Agreement a year ago, addressing climate change has remained a major imperative for most of the world's nations.  Enough countries quickly ratified the accord so that it entered into force early, in November.  Shortly after Trump's surprising election, delegates from virtually every country in the world gathered in Marrakech to start putting the Paris treaty immediately into action.

Most countries also signed on to two other agreements this fall:  one to reduce potent greenhouse gases used in refrigeration and another to cap emissions for the aviation industry.

Whatever the U.S. does under Trump, other countries "will move whether or not we are moving forward," Pershing predicted.

"It's already built into decisions that are being made," said Timothy Wirth, vice chair of the United Nations Foundation, a former Colorado Senator and a top climate negotiator for former President Clinton.  "To try to fight an uphill, rearguard action against the realities of science and climate seems to be a very worthless political exercise.  They'd get nothing out it."

Nathaniel Keohane, climate vice president at the Environmental Defense Fund, said that U.S. climate action could be a litmus test to gauge how far the Trump administration is willing to go in other realms of cooperation.  It may even become a prime bargaining chip.

"What a country does in terms of its climate commitments is taken as a signal of how it's going to act on its other commitments," he said.  For other countries, "how they engage, how willing they are to align themselves with some of the U.S. asks and U.S. priorities," will be based partly on how America behaves on the climate front, he said.

"We would lose a seat at the table," said David Wirth, a law professor at Boston College and a former legal adviser to the State Department.  "We would lose leverage.  We would create an immense amount of ill-will having taken on these obligations and now saying we are backing off for no obvious benefit."

2017:  Trump Peddles Climate Doubt in a World Sold on Action

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