Taking action on rising sea levels and warmer ocean temperatures and mitigating more destructive natural disasters is going to happen whether America throws its support behind remedial measures or not. Just as climate change is inevitable, “climate action is unstoppable,” the United Nations tweeted Wednesday.
Indeed, Trump’s “strongman” leadership may simply leave a diplomatic vacuum on environmental issues, allowing China to take the reins.
Beijing has wasted no time in partnering with the EU to demand that all signatories “uphold the Paris agreement” with the “highest political commitment” possible, EU climate commissioner Miguel Airas Cañete told the Guardian.
And the US president’s refusal to uphold Paris commitments could hit Trump at home where it hurts the most: jobs, jobs, jobs. “Tackling climate change and reforming our energy systems are significant drivers of job creation, investment opportunities and economic growth,” the EU and China said in a joint affirmation.
Beijing and Brussels are not the only international players who could seize the opportunity to lead on issues where Washington shies away. “This is a survival question for many Chinese cities and regions … and also for India,” the home of about 1.3 billion people, an EU official commented.
Trump’s Washington can lag behind but other foreign powers won’t wait around to forge new leadership on reducing carbon emissions, innovating sustainable energy sources and protecting natural sanctuaries and ecosystems around the world. “Global leadership on climate is changing,” the UN’s Climate Action Tracker said on May 15. “Positive developments on coal use in China and India are likely to reduce projected global carbon emissions growth by roughly two to three billion tons by 230 compared to forecasts made a year ago.”
If the US bowed out of a similar agreement 10 years ago, it would have “shocked the planet,” according to the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. But now? “If the US really chooses to leave the Paris agreement, the world will move on with building a clean and secure future,” according to the Institute’s John Schellnhuber.
By contrast, the environmental watchdog projects the full implementation of Trump’s policies will “flatten US emissions instead of contributing to a downward trend,” according to Professor Niklas Höhne of the New Climate Institute. If other countries push emissions down while the US does nothing, studies cited by USA Today show that Washington alone would increasing global warming almost half-a-degree.
Climate change cannot be dealt with or addressed “by closing your eyes,” Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila remarked in a Guardian report published Wednesday.
“If we lag, the noose tightens,” Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer told USA Today. In a worst-case scenario run by a group of experts, a US withdrawal from its climate commitments, even if other nations keep theirs, could lead to an extra half-degree (.3 degrees Celsius) of warming by the end of the century – as the world struggles to keep the planet from getting more than 2 degrees C hotter than pre-industrial levels.
A Danish official chimed that abandoning the agreement would be nothing short of a “really, really bad signal” from the US, the Guardian reported. If the US can abandon its commitments, after all, other countries may decide to follow suit.