John Sutter: Trump's election may put the planet's moves to stall climate change at risk
He hopes Trump will realize it's in his interest -- as well as ours -- to face up to reality
There are ample reasons to be truly saddened and terrified by the coming Donald Trump presidency – like the fact that this candidate is being swept into office after demonizing immigrants, Muslims, war heroes and women. But one issue your great-great-great-great-great grandchildren also will talk about in reference to the Trump years is climate change.
I understand it’s hard to talk policy right now, when voters are either reeling in shock or cheering their new and unconventional leader. But the United States – the country most to blame for dangerous warming to date, and the second-biggest annual polluter – just elected someone who thinks this solid science is a “hoax.” That could be tragic not just for us in these four years, but for the very habitability of the planet for future generations.
Views on Election 2016
Until this, things were moving in the right direction. One hundred and three countries, including the United States, ratified an agreement to cut fossil fuels and stop warming at a safe-ish level. Diplomats are in Morocco this week hammering out details of how to turn these goals into action. Trump, meanwhile, says he will trash the Paris Agreement. That may be tricky now that the treaty is international law. But the harsh reality is clear in climate policy circles: Trump could cause climate catastrophe.
Concern isn’t alarmism; it’s science and math. As Vox has pointed out repeatedly, the damage we’re doing to the atmosphere now could last 10,000 years into the future. There’s only so much carbon we can pump into the atmosphere before we’re screwed. International negotiations aim to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. We’re already at 1 degree. Places such as Shishmaref, Alaska, and the Marshall Islands in the Pacific likely won’t exist even at 2 degrees of sustained warming. Biologists already fear we’re on the verge of a mass-extinction event, with climate change as one of the main drivers.