Nations around the world struck a deal four years ago to confront climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But since then, the situation has gotten worse, according to a recent United Nations report, with the two biggest polluters, the U.S. and China, increasing their emissions in that time. It's little wonder: The Trump administration, in a move that history will condemn, has begun pulling America out of the Paris agreement — and China has used that decision as an excuse for its own failure.
"Now that the U.S. has withdrawn from the Paris agreement, the entire global response to climate change is shifting," one Chinese policymaker said recently. "There's no point in being in a rush."
In fact, the new report shows there are urgent reasons to be in a rush.
Serious scientists around the world over are virtually unanimous in concluding that the planet is warming at an alarming rate, and that the burning of fossil fuels, industrial-level agricultural practices and other human activity are the primary culprits. Rising sea levels, wildfires, unstable weather patterns and other problems will continue worsening without drastic action to make up for lost time, the U.N. report warns.
The ambitious goals of the 2015 Paris agreement were already daunting, including a vow by the end of the century to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. At the current trajectory, according to the report, the temperature rise will be almost twice that.
"Our collective failure to act early and hard on climate change means we now must deliver deep cuts to emissions," said a statement by the executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, Inger Andersen. "We need to catch up on the years in which we procrastinated."
The U.S. is a significant part of that procrastination, thanks to President Donald Trump's announcement in 2017 that he would pull the United States out of the Paris agreement. That decision, driven by Trump's fealty to coal and other polluting industries and the irrational anti-science elements of his base, has given cover to China and other foot-draggers on reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
At the same time, U.S. emissions, which had been declining in recent years, spiked last year, as the administration rolled back Obama-era environmental reforms. That spike is no small matter, as America is the world's second-largest emitter after China.
At this point, it appears futile to try to convince Trump or most of the Republican Party to end their ideologically driven ignorance on this issue. So on top of everything else riding on next year's elections, there is this: If the current president and his party are removed from power, the U.S. may finally be able to resume helping the rest of the world try to avert catastrophe for our descendants.
REPRINTED FROM THE ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Photo credit: cocoparisienne at Pixabay