Trump holds cli­mate’s fate in his hands

Oth­ers may fol­low Amer­ica’s ex­am­ple

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD - BLOOMBERG

US PRES­I­DENT Don­ald Trump wasn’t ex­ag­ger­at­ing when he said dur­ing his elec­tion cam­paign that the US could “can­cel” the Paris Ac­cord on cli­mate change.

Pull the US out of the deal in­volv­ing al­most 200 na­tions could have a domino ef­fect on the par­tic­i­pa­tion of other coun­tries in lim­it­ing fos­sil-fuel pol­lu­tion, mak­ing it al­most im­pos­si­ble and ex­tremely ex­pen­sive to stop cat­a­strophic cli­mate change.

That’s the con­clu­sion of re­searchers and sci­en­tists eval­u­at­ing the im­pact of Trump on the health of the cli­mate.

While fore­cast­ing the state of the en­vi­ron­ment more than 80 years into the fu­ture is a no­to­ri­ously in­ex­act ex­er­cise, aca­demics gath­ered by the the UN at the In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change are con­cerned the world is headed for “ex­ten­sive” species ex­tinc­tions, se­ri­ous crop dam­age and ir­re­versible in­creases in sea lev­els even be­fore Trump started to un­pick the fight against global warm­ing.

“Four years of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion may have only mod­est con­se­quences, but eight years of bad pol­icy would prob­a­bly wreck the world’s chances of keep­ing warm­ing be­low the in­ter­na­tional tar­get of 2ºC,” Michael Op­pen­heimer, pro­fes­sor of geo­sciences and in­ter­na­tional af­fairs at Prince­ton Univer­sity, said.

“The odds of our avoid­ing the cli­mate-dan­ger zone would fade to zero.”

While a 2ºC shift wouldn’t be no­tice­able dur­ing the course of a day, it would rep­re­sent a his­toric change for the Earth as a whole that’s faster than any change in the cli­mate since the last ice age ended some 10 000 years ago.

The sce­nar­ios that sci­en­tists are look­ing at de­pend on mea­sure­ments of air and water tem­per­a­tures taken at hun­dreds of sites around the world, as well as com­plex mod­els about how trends will evolve in the com­ing decades.

Trump’s move would clearly make the out­look worse, ac­cord­ing to Cli­mate In­ter­ac­tive, a team of mod­ellers backed by in­sti­tu­tions such as MIT Sloan School of Man­age­ment and the Rock­e­feller Broth­ers Fund.

They es­ti­mate that the world would warm by 3.6ºC by 2100 when com­pared with pre-in­dus­trial lev­els, more than the 3.3ºC base­line sce­nario.

As the world’s sec­ond-big­gest pol­luter af­ter China, a move by the US to scrap the ac­cord in­volv­ing al­most 200 na­tions, would pour hun­dreds of bil­lions of tons of car­bon diox­ide into the at­mos­phere and speed up the warm­ing trend al­ready tak­ing place.

It also would threaten a $100 bil­lion (R1.3 tril­lion) a year stream of funds that in­dus­trial na­tions have pledged to per­suade de­vel­op­ing na­tions to cut back their own emis­sions, en­dan­ger­ing the po­lit­i­cal foun­da­tions of the global fight against cli­mate change.

“The loss of US fi­nance would be the big­gest headache, and of course the sym­bol­ism is not good,” said Michael Grubb, a pro­fes­sor at Univer­sity Col­lege Lon­don who has ad­vised the EU on cli­mate pol­icy.

The Paris Agree­ment sealed in 2015 brought to­gether the US and EU with big de­vel­op­ing na­tions from China to In­dia to Brazil in pledg­ing lim­its on fos­sil-fuel pol­lu­tion and funds to help poorer coun­tries adapt to cli­mate change.

Longer term, the im­pact of US with­drawal de­pends on how other coun­tries and in­vestors re­spond.

Trump, who for months has de­layed a de­ci­sion on the cli­mate agree­ment, told his al­most 31 mil­lion Twit­ter fol­low­ers to ex­pect his fi­nal ver­dict this week, and the signs are point­ing to­ward a with­drawal.

In an un­prece­dented step, the US broke from the other six na­tions on Satur­day in a joint state­ment is­sued at the Group of 7 sum­mit, say­ing the US was re­view­ing its pol­icy.

The web­site Ax­ios re­ported that he had told con­fi­dants he planned to pull the US out of the deal. So far, no other coun­try, in­clud­ing China and In­dia, has said they’d fol­low the US in pulling out of Paris.


US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump speaks speaks at the White House in Wash­ing­ton.

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