Donald Trump presidency a ‘disaster for the planet’, warn climate scientists
Leading scientists say the climate denier’s victory could mean ‘game over for the climate’ and any hope of warding off dangerous global warming
By Oliver Milman in New York
Nov 11 2016
The ripples from a new American president are far-reaching, but never before has the arrival of a White House administration placed the livability of Earth at stake. Beyond his bluster and crude taunts, Donald Trump’s climate denialism could prove to be the lasting imprint of his unexpected presidency.
“A Trump presidency might be game over for the climate,” said Michael Mann, a prominent climate researcher. “It might make it impossible to stabilize planetary warming below dangerous levels.”
Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research, added: “This is an unmitigated disaster for the planet.”
Trump has vowed to sweep away the climate framework painstakingly built over Barack Obama’s two terms. At risk is the Paris climate accord, which only came into force last week, and Obama’s linchpin emissions reduction policy, the Clean Power Plan.
At a pivotal moment when the planet’s nations have belatedly banded together to confront an existential threat, a political novice who calls global warming a “bullshit” Chinese-invented hoax is taking the helm at the world’s foremost superpower.
“Millions of Americans voted for a coal-loving climate denier willing to condemn people around the globe to poverty, famine and death from climate change,” said Benjamin Schreiber, climate director at Friends of the Earth US. “It seems undeniable that the United States will become a rogue state on climate change.”
US conservatives are already rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of a bonfire of regulation. Trump wants the US to exit the Paris deal, which commits nations to keeping the global temperature rise below a 2C threshold, potentially setting off a cataclysmic domino effect where other countries also drop out or ease off efforts to decarbonize. The 2C limit, which was already a stern challenge, now appears perilous.
The Clean Power Plan, the main tool to cut American emissions, is also targeted for elimination, along with billions of dollars in clean energy funding. Republicans will also turn off the tap of aid flowing to developing nations already struggling with climate change-driven sea level rise, heatwaves and drought.
Bitterly contested fossil fuel projects such as the Keystone development and the Dakota Access pipeline, which has caused unprecedented uproar among native American tribes, would likely be waved through, with Trump promising to “lift the Obama-Clinton roadblocks to allow these vital energy infrastructure projects to go ahead”.
Environmentalists are already aghast at Trump’s presidential preparations. He has appointed Myron Ebell, director at a conservative thinktank, to oversee transition plans for the Environmental Protection Agency, which Trump has casually earmarked for abolition. Ebell has said global warming is “nothing to worry about” and that the Clean Power Plan is “illegal”.
Shortlists drawn up for key Trump administration posts have also raised alarm. Oil billionaire Harold Hamm is being touted as energy secretary, while former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin could make a stunning comeback as interior secretary, putting her in charge of US public lands, including treasures such as Yellowstone and Yosemite national parks. Palin is an enthusiastic proponent of oil and gas drilling, describing the fossil fuels as “things that God has dumped on this part of the Earth for mankind’s use”.