As “Russiagate” becomes a full-blown conflagration threatening to consume Donald Trump’s presidency, his denial of human-induced global warming continues to threaten a planet already on fire. The world reeled on June 1 when Trump made good on his campaign promise to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement. Since then, governments around the world, from the largest nations to the smallest hamlets, have joined together in criticism of the move, vowing to accelerate their own commitments to combating climate change, with or without Donald Trump and the U.S. The time remaining to prevent irreversible climate change is short.
Donald Trump was notably isolated at the G-20 meeting in Hamburg last week. Over 100,000 protesters marched despite a massive and at times violent police crackdown. Inside, the 19 other world leaders took a stand against Trump’s rejection of the Paris climate agreement. Yet, as the group Oil Change International pointed out this week, the G-20 nations, collectively, provide $72 billion in subsidies annually to the fossil-fuel industry—four times what they spend on renewable energy.
“While it’s excellent that the other G-20 leaders put Donald Trump in a corner,” Oil Change’s Alex Doukas said on the “Democracy Now!” news hour, “it’s not enough to simply confront his climate denial. These leaders have to act. They need to be putting their money where their mouths are.” Oil Change details the subsidies in a report published during the recent summit, “Talk is Cheap: How G20 Governments are Financing Climate Disaster.” Oil Change is calling on G-20 governments to end all fossil-fuel subsidies by 2020, and move the funds into support for renewable energy.
Most of the pollution released since 1988 comes from just 100 companies, according to another just-released report, the “Carbon Majors Report 2017.” It notes, “Since 1988, more than half of global industrial greenhouse gasses (GHGs) can be traced to just 25 corporate and state producers.” China’s state-owned coal industry tops the list, along with others like Saudi Arabia’s and Iran’s petroleum companies. Corporations like ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Chevron also are among the worst polluters. As the G-20 wrapped up, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she “deplored” the U.S. government’s exit from the Paris agreement. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, made his exit to Istanbul, Turkey, to receive a lifetime achievement award from the World Petroleum Congress, where he called the oil industry “marvelous,” before heading to Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, back at home, the impacts of global warming are everywhere. In the North American West, from near the Mexican border up into British Columbia, the Yukon and Alaska, wildfires are raging. The U.S. government’s interagency National Wildfire Coordinating Group listed 109 active wildfires in the U.S. alone. In Phoenix last month, when temperatures reached 120 degrees F, smaller jets were unable to take off or land, and American Airlines canceled close to 50 flights, all because the air was too hot. At higher temperatures, asphalt can melt, making runways unusable.
The Union of Concerned Scientists just published a comprehensive study on the increasing impacts of sea level rise on U.S. coastal communities. “By 2035, about 170 communities—roughly twice as many as today—will face chronic inundation,” the report states. By 2100, the number climbs to almost 500 communities—some as large and economically vital as Galveston, Texas, most of greater New Orleans (we’ve seen what one hurricane can do there), Miami and Boston. Climate change, along with human overpopulation and consumption, is responsible for the Earth’s sixth mass extinction, which scientists this week labeled an ongoing “biological annihilation.”
There is even more breaking news about climate change—ice-breaking news. A section of the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica has broken off; that’s an iceberg the size of Delaware, four times the size of London. Scientists predict that if all Antarctic ice melts, global sea levels could rise by as much as 160 feet. The climate action group 350.org has launched a petition to name the new iceberg “Exxon Knew 1,” referring to allegations that ExxonMobil covered up its research on climate change for decades.
Because many of the polluting corporations among the Carbon Majors are publicly traded, they can be influenced by shareholder actions. The movement to shift money from fossil-fuel corporations toward renewable energy is called “Divest/Invest.” As of December 2016, investors have pledged to move over $5 trillion. While the U.S. government has withdrawn from the global climate action pact, under the banner “We Are Still In,” seven states, including California and New York, have been joined by hundreds of cities and thousands of businesses and universities, committed to reducing carbon emissions.
Donald Trump may have won the Electoral College in 2016, elevating his climate change denialism to dangerous heights. But the resistance is real, strong and growing, and that cannot be denied.