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Climate pact worries

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  4 April 2017 12:00 AM GMT

Carrying out another of his campaign promises, US President Dold Trump last week signed an executive order that effectively declares that his country will not fulfil commitments made in striking the 2015 Paris climate deal. To be sure, the United States, the world’s second largest greenhouse gas emitter (after Chi), is not yet pulling out formally from the agreement. That would be a drastic step that can take years, involve protracted legal complications and isolate the US diplomatically. But President Trump’s move will nullify the pledges made by predecessor Barack Obama, whose Clean Power Plan would have cut US carbon dioxide emissions by 26-28 percent (from 2005 levels) by 2025. That plan envisaged shutting down coal-fired power plants while setting up mega solar and wind farms. This would have been the US contribution to help limit global warming to below 3.6 degrees Celsius, considered to be the ‘tipping point’ that can push planet Earth into irreversible, catastrophic events. Rising sea levels, rapid cycles of flash floods and severe droughts and food shortages are all likely effects of this doomsday climate change scerio. But Trump has made it clear on many occasions that he simply does not buy the arguments for global preventive action. In characteristic fashion, he has dubbed global warming an ‘expensive hoax’, once famously tweeting that ‘the concept was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive’. During several severe cold spells hitting the US, Trump has been known to comment that his country could do with some healthy dose of global warming! His administration’s current position appears to be that climate change exists, but is ‘turally occurring’ and certainly not man-made. Not surprisingly, President Trump’s executive order has directed US federal agencies that in making policy decisions, they must not use ‘social cost of carbon’ calculations about impacts of greenhouse gas emissions, that there must be no considerations about climate change in reviewing infrastructure projects. Making yet another pitch to his core electorate of blue collar workers, Trump has pointed out that his order will now keep hundreds of coal-fired power plants from closing down, that ‘coal is clean’ (despite being a fossil fuel!).
Trump’s detractors have argued that coal as fuel has been facing competition from tural gas in the US, with increasing mechanisation threatening coal sector jobs anyway, while new wind and solar farms could have created much more openings. But with the Trump administration turning denial of climate change into tiol policy, and thereby ceding US leadership on this front, the responsibility now shifts to Chi, India (as the third biggest emitter), the European Union and other major economies. Since the late 1800s, the Earth is estimated to have warmed up by about 1.1 degree Celsius. Separate alyses by US space agency SA and US tiol Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have both shown recently that 2016 was the hottest year ever recorded (the third year in a row) in terms of global average surface temperatures. Scientific data from other countries too indicate that carbon dioxide levels in Earth’s atmosphere have not been this high in 4 million years, that the last time the planet was so warm was about 1,15,000 years ago. Calling for bolder, more ambitious commitments on the basis of such worrying data, United tions Environment Program executive director Erik Solheim says: “This is not the time for any country to change course on the very serious and very real threat of climate change.” Paris deal negotiators and diplomats are now saying that the onus is now on other countries to continue moving towards low carbon economic model that uses clean energy. With the US no longer on board, all eyes will turn to how Chi and India negotiate the way ahead, as both these giants have powerful interl lobbies scornful of environmental concerns. To their credit, both Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister rendra Modi have taken strong, unequivocal positions in support of battling global warming. How the 190 plus sigtories of the climate pact, particularly the developing tions bloc, coordite their response will be crucial, particularly with Washington now cutting off funds to the Global Climate Change Initiative, including the Green Climate Fund (GCF). Funds have to be set aside to develop low-carbon technologies, and there has to be firm commitment to share these with other countries. With the world already close to the 1.5 degree Celsius limit set in Paris, the clock is ticking fast.

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