Sep 09, 2020
The upcoming election is a critical event especially because of its implications on climate change. The danger of another four years of a Trump administration is plausibly existential. The evidence is clear. The administration exited the Paris Accord, a weak accord characteristically, while proceeding to ramp up oil and gas production. At the same time, the Trump administration recently announced efforts to deregulate protections regarding oil and gas production in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. These measures have been in place since the Eisenhower administration.
"There's no good time to open up America's largest wildlife refuge to drilling and fracking, but it's absolutely bonkers to endanger this beautiful place during a worldwide oil glut," remarked Kristen Monsell, attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental organisation. This is concurrent theme of the administration's first term.
This is a continuing trend. The New York Timesreported that the administration has reversed 19 air pollution and emissions rules, 11 rules on drilling, 11 on animals, four on water pollution, and six rules on toxic substances and safety--totalling 68 rule changes and rollbacks all together with 32 others still in progress. These weakened regulations on air and water will disproportionately affect poorer communities, exposing it to harmful toxins. In fact, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology Letts, air pollution kills 100,000 to 200,000 excess deaths per year--more than from murders and car crashes combined. Yet, it is important to highlight that not everyone is exposed to poor air quality or suffers from its causes. Air pollution is disproportionately produced by the consumption of goods and services by the white majority, but disproportionately inhaled by black and Hispanic minorities (and low-income communities). In fact, this extends to climate change overall. The poorer communities will face its impacts the hardest--health, economics, and overall quality of life--are all far more severe on underprivileged communities in the US and the world.
Trump recently rolled back standards on fuel efficiency that were put in place by the Obama administration. This, the administration itself notes, is expected to release 867 to 923 million metric tons of CO2 more than previous the standards, increase gasoline consumption by around 80 billion gallons, and oil consumption by 2 billion barrels. This comes at a time when transportation is the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.
Concurrently, it has proposed permitting coal plants to emit more CO2 by weakening standards found in the New Source Review, proposed loosened regulations that limit methane emissions at drilling sites, and enacted rollbacks intended to increase fossil fuel production--all when the opposite should be done. The Trump administration has been using every means to increase emissions and accelerate climate change--an existential threat to species survival. In fact, in what could be considered as cruelty, the administration itself predicts a 4degC increase in global temperatures, but it doesn't propose to immediately and rapidly stave off the threat. Rather, it noted that we shouldn't do anything about it! It is plausible to say that this is an admission in complicity in writing off the survival and future of the planet and its future generations! (More of the deregulation efforts can be found at the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University).
Other examples reflect this also. TheWashington Postnotes that "Administration estimates acknowledge that the policies would release far more greenhouse gas emissions from America's energy and transportation sectors than otherwise would have been allowed." This is telling and it should be noted that another four years of the Trump administration would drastically reduce any little hope of what is left to stave off climate catastrophe. Sure, Biden has a weak plan, but it is a start nonetheless.
In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change advocated limiting global warming to 1.5degC above pre-industrial levels. To avoid this, global emissions have to reach net zero by 2050.
At the same time, the Climate Science Special Report concludes that US temperatures continue to rise including the frequency and intensity of extreme temperatures, incidence of large forest fires, and coastal flooding. It noted that global mean atmospheric C02 concentration (which is the actual amount in the atmosphere) has now passed 400 parts per million, something that has last occurred about 3 million years ago. A recent study has concluded that regions like densely populated South Asia will be unliveable due to temperatures reaching or surpassing the limits of human survivability.
Moreover, contrary to the administration's proposals and actions, the US public favours an international binding treaty in curbing greenhouse gas emissions while holding favourable views on solar energy, the Green New Deal, and stronger fuel-efficiency standards on cars and pickup trucks. In fact, a rising number of the population view climate change as a "crisis" while a majority think, accurately, that Trump is doing too little to tackle climate change.
It is no surprise the administration doesn't reflect any popular support from the population on its climate policies. Yes, both parties have shifted to the right during the neoliberal period. Yet, this modern Republican Party has drifted so far to the right that conservative analysts Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann of the American Enterprise Institute describe it as a "radical insurgency." It is telling that the Trump re-election campaign doesn't even offer any climate policies, nor any other policies for that matter.
The IPCC report warned that the world has until 2030 to curtail climate change due to the path we are already on.
Catastrophic problems include greater sea level rise causing unliveable coast areas, indescribable human suffering, species loss and extinction, stronger heatwaves and hotter summers, major crop failures, destructive storms, and precipitation deficits and extreme weather for a significant number of people in the world if we exceed 1.5degC warming. In fact, the world is already more than half of the way there. Consequently, the science states that the world has to reach net zero emissions by 2050 while the rich countries have to, most plausibly, try to reach zero emissions much earlier than that. If anything like we've seen in the first term, Donald Trump's re-election will accelerate climate change at a much faster rate while racing the world to catastrophe.
As the world's most prominent political dissident and world renowned linguist Noam Chomsky has stated: "has any other organization dedicated itself with such enthusiasm to undermining our prospects for decent survival?"
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