In the wake of the publication of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on the looming climate change ‘catastrophe’, US President Donald Trump has suggested that leading scientists on the matter have a ‘political agenda’.
Backtracking from his earlier views, in which he stated that he believed global warming was a ‘hoax’, Trump has now acknowledged the existence of climate change, while simultaneously proposing that such effects on the planet could ‘change back’. For some, these views seem to indicate a change of heart for Trump, who just over a year ago withdrew from the Paris Agreement, which aimed to “strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below two degrees Celsius”.
The evidence for the existence of climate change caused by human activity is overwhelming; according to NASA, the planet’s temperature has risen by “about 0.9 degrees Celsius since the late 19th century” with the majority of the warming taking place in the last 35 years. 2016 was the hottest year on record, and eight of 12 months were the warmest ever recorded for their respective month. Alongside this is the warming of the oceans, rising sea-levels, shrinking ice-sheets, glacial retreats, decreased snow cover and declining Arctic sea ice.
While it is true that Trump’s views have progressed from his initial denial of the existence of climate change, his stance on action has not. During a spell of particularly cold weather last December he tweeted that “perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming.” Such refusal to make decisive action, according to the UN, could have disastrous consequences, especially considering that leading scientists have declared there are only 12 years to reduce the effects of global warming to 1.5 degrees, and that any higher would lead to ‘disastrous’ results for the planet.
Arguably, Trump’s acceptance of the existence of climate change is a progressive step in the right direction. But integral to the survival of the planet is immediate and conclusive action, and Trump has made no indication that this is his intention. In that regard, very little about his statement is truly progressive, as it makes no difference what his view is on climate change if he does not attempt to make any headway in solving these problems. When the leader of the world’s largest superpower remains indifferent, the fate of the planet seems doomed.
Image: Gage Skidmore