Just when you think Donald Trump has done every narcissistic and disgraceful thing the leader of the most powerful country in the world can, he goes ahead and surprises you. But his most recent admission of having not read the latest UN climate report, containing the strongest warning we have ever had about how much we’re destroying the planet and the anthropological effect on climate change shouldn’t come as a shock.
Having pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement – something which world leaders and environmental experts alike spent years and whole careers organising – and purging the US Environmental Protection Agency of its funding and powers, it’s to be expected that the oval office is full of unread environmental reports and unopened envelopes from leading scientists with the words FINAL WARNING stamped onto them in red ink. But this is where the issue is. His ridiculousness and complete buffoonery are being mocked and turned into memes, however this shouldn’t and mustn’t cloud over the very real danger of his actions as president for our world.[pullquote]Our attitude to climate change needs to be shoved up the priorities list[/pullquote]
Without the support of the most powerful country in the world, the organisations mentioned above are so much weaker and therefore our hopes for a healthy planet for our futures is put into jeopardy. As the report states, we have until 2040 to make a significant change in our use of non-renewable energy sources and drop our greenhouse gas emissions by at least 45%. That’s not long, and the stunting of the UN’s efforts to kickstart the movement to save our planet by ignorant old men could be the very thing that makes us run out of time.
It may seem like just another one of Donald Trump’s ridiculous episodes, but our planet is at stake. However there is no simple solution. To bypass a democratically elected leader in favour of qualified experts may appear to be the obvious choice, but, whether we agree with them or not, Donald Trump was voted in to make these kind of decisions. But just as he was voted in, so too can he be voted out. Attitude to climate change isn’t always the first thing we think about when choosing political representatives, and it needs to be shoved up the priorities list. Until we put qualified and unselfish people into positions of power, making changes is going to be a very steep uphill struggle.
As a society, it is no exaggeration to say that we are collectively living in denial when it comes to climate change. At the moment, everybody is concerned. Climate change hit the headlines after a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that we have 12 years to limit global warming to 1.5C. Emissions need to be virtually eliminated by 2050 if we want to stop sea level rise, freak weather, and loss of human and animal life. Suddenly, we are all concerned because now it feels real. The question is, will the report have faded into obscurity in a few weeks? Will the conversation about climate change once again grind to a halt?
For the sake of our planet, I hope not. I would like to think that the report is the wake-up call we all need. It’s a clear, stark warning that dispels Trump’s claims that melting ice-caps and sea-level rise ‘would have happened with or without man’. Time and time again, scientists have proved that climate change is a human problem that needs a human solution. The IPCC report noted that the planet is currently 1C warmer than it was in the preindustrial era. And what has happened since that preindustrial era? The age of car emissions, fossil fuels and factories. To say that climate change would have happened without these human influences is at best a myth. At worst, it is an unfounded, selfish lie, that protects the interests of oil companies, stakeholders and those rich enough to protect themselves against the effects of climate change.[pullquote]Climate change is a human problem that needs a human solution[/pullquote]
There’s been a lot of debate over the past week about the difference between individual and corporate responsibility. ‘Would you advise someone to flap towels in a burning house?’ asks an article published by The Guardian, which advocates that the neoliberal ideal of individual advancement has prevented us from seeing where the real responsibility lies: with corporations. A Carbon Majors Report found that 71% of global emissions were from just 100 companies, meaning that the bulk of the blame lies with capitalist corporations. However, this doesn’t stop us from acting individually and collectively. We can make the little changes to our lives, such as driving less, eating less meat, and being more energy-efficient. Simultaneously, we can come together as one voice, pressuring the government and corporations to make the changes needed now. We need to show Trump that climate change is not a trivial issue to be brushed off. It is real and it is happening now.
Our individual actions may just be a drop in the ocean, but in a situation as dire as this, every little helps. And this time, maybe climate change will remain the topic on everyone’s lips. Maybe then there will be hope for the future.