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The Earth Is Not Flat, Mr. Trump

"We have only one planet. There is no Plan B because there is no planet B," said former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last year. We better start acting like it. (Photo: NASA/Wikimedia Commons)

The question is not whether climate change exists but what to do about it.

It is difficult to find a respected scientist in the United States or around the world who disputes man-made contributions to climate change, certainly not the thousands of scientists first organized by the United Nations in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Yet, the new administration is fueled by “alternative facts” from the anti-science earth-is-flat crowd.

President Donald Trump has called it a hoax. And the Republican Party platform in 2016 said climate change was invented by “environmental extremists” in the Democratic Party working to “sustain the illusion of an environmental crisis.”

That platform reverses the GOP’s 2008 position when it recognized that human activity had increased carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, including chlorofluorocarbons.

More alarming is that funds to research climate change may be cut, prompting universities and scientists to store information away from government agencies. Trump has threatened to stop paying for NASA’s world-renowned research into temperature, ice, clouds and other climate phenomena.


Short-lived Trump statements

Since his election, Trump said there maybe “some connectivity” between human activity and climate change and said he would keep an open mind, according to a “New York Times” interview.

That promise was short-lived as his new Environmental Protection Agency secretary is Scott Pruitt. As Oklahoma’s attorney general, he campaigned against EPA regulations, among them smog and airborne mercury pollution. He also objected to purging chicken dung from the Illinois River.

Oklahoma is famous for being America’s earthquake capital. In a normal year—that is, in almost any before 2009—the state only saw one or two quakes. It now experiences one to two quakes per day. In 2015, it endured 857 earthquakes with a magnitude of 3.0 or higher, more than struck the rest of the lower 48 states combined.

Quakes and fracking

Why? Fracking does it. “The earthquakes are caused by wastewater injection, a process in which million of gallons of salty water are pumped deep underground. This water is often a by-product of fracking, the natural-gas mining process that has spread across the country and revolutionized the U.S. energy industry,” said technology correspondent Robinson Meyer in The Atlantic magazine.

The Trump administration has also frozen a regulation blocking debris from coal mining from being dumped into nearby streams, apparently under the illusion that “clean coal” is a reality.

Former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, the new secretary of state, says the United States should have a seat at the world climate conferences with 190 other states. But he has yet to link damage from fossil fuels to the atmosphere. Still, it is the oil companies that eventually have to figure out a way to combat climate change.

Since the industrial revolution, global warming created by human emissions caused land ice to melt and ocean water to expand. The rise of the sea, following melting glaciers, has already threatened the United States coastline.

The effects are clear: more intense floods and rains in California after tracks of parched land, hurricanes and on it goes. The Trump administration wants to leave it all to the states, as if weather recognizes boundary lines.

China and US are world’s polluters

The United States has become the world’s second largest polluter, following China, where the smog can be intolerably thick in Beijing.

The year 2016 was the hottest year on record following three consecutive record breaking years.

“A single warm year is something of a curiosity,” said Deke Arndt, chief of global climate monitoring for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “It’s really the trend, and the fact that we’re punching at the ceiling every year now, that is the real indicator that we’re undergoing big changes.”

Countries accounting for 55 percent of the world’s emissions ratified the Paris Agreement, after many sessions and conferences at the United Nations. It was approved in December 2015 and for the first time charts a new course for efforts to combat climate change.It entered into force on November 4, 2016.

The object is hold global warming to 2 Celsius (3.6F). Western governments have committed around $1 billion in funding for developing nations but who knows what the United States will do.

World leaders still have a lot of work to do, from talking the talk to walking the walk.

For example, Brazil, Bolivia and dozens of companies are expected to stop deforestation in the Amazon region by 2020 and end it by 2030. Norway has noted that if the forest goal were met, it would be the equivalent of taking every car in the road. Oslo promised to spend $350 million to preserve Peruvian forest and $100 million in Liberia.

“We have only one planet. There is no Plan B because there is no planet B,” said former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in December shortly before he left office after years of campaigning for a climate pact.

Evelyn Leopold

Evelyn Leopold

Evelyn Leopold is a writing fellow and correspondent for Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute. She is an independent journalist based at the United Nations as resident correspondent. She was bureau chief for Reuters at the UN for 17 years, and is chair of the Dag Hammarskjöld Fund for Journalists. She was awarded a gold medal in 2000 for UN reporting by the UN Correspondents Association.

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