There is little time to dwell on the fundamental flaws of the structure of American politics so this article that will aim to focus primarily on how the rest of the world can proceed following America’s choice to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.
We are amidst a global crisis that America has elected to ignore. As National Geographic points out, “Climate Change isn’t a hoax or a scientific conspiracy, it’s a grand challenge.” The average global temperature has risen 1.69°F and we have reached 400 parts per million in average atmospheric carbon dioxide, which is up 216 since 1832. That has taken less than 200 years. Nine out of ten climate scientists agree that “carbon emissions cause global warming”: this should be overwhelmingly obvious proof and leaves a sense of disbelief that, at this stage, anyone could be in denial. Our living is unsustainable and it is necessary, not optional, to take legislative action to stimulate societal change and improve the environmental crisis we are facing.
So, here’s a little note to the man who thinks it’s all a hoax, courtesy of National Geographic:
Humans are most definitely responsible as “no natural cause explains the half-century warming trend”, which has been documented by satellites. This is caused by “human-emitted greenhouse gases” of which the U.S. is the second largest contributor; this forms a “steadily thickening blanket that traps heat at the Earth’s surface” (I learnt this in high school. If I have to know it, then so does the President of the United States). Arctic ice has decreased from 2.78 million of square miles in 1979 to 1.82 in 2016 – just 0.96 in 47 years. Melting land ice raises sea levels and since 1900, there has been a total sea level rise of 8-9 inches which has caused coastal flooding. Should this continue, low lying land, such as New York, will disappear underwater. Extreme weather is far more likely. In 2003, a heatwave in Europe killed 70,000 people; once a 1-in-500-year event, now it is a 1-in-40. There will be an “exponential increase in water and climate related worldwide catastrophes.” There is potential for all this to ignite human conflict. The Syrian Civil war was ignited partly by a historic drought that drove farmers into the city. If the human impact is not convincing, animals are already suffering. There has been a shift in migration patterns and behaviour. There are “1 in 6 species at risk of global extinction if the climate warms by nearly 8°F.” All this factual information is outlined in the April 2017 issue of National Geographic magazine which emphasises the extent of the global crisis with an article that someone should probably forward to the White House, where most of the deniers seem to reside.
Of course, there is a chance this is all a shout into the void. With global warming being of no concern to the U.S., is there any point? Can we still make change without the cooperation of a global superpower? It seems as if, for now at least, it is time to leave the doubters behind and let them play catch up later. For everyone else, it’s time to look to the future. We can no longer embody the attitude of believing we do not have the power as individuals to make any notable difference – change is impossible if everyone holds this perspective.
Not all hope is lost. America hasn’t drop-kicked us straight into the void just yet. There are still countries remaining in the Paris Agreement and attempting to follow the rules in place. The element of choice is gone, there isn’t room to try and negotiate the future of the planet in order to gain sovereignty. There are steps to be taken.
Energy markets are looking to shift from coal to renewables, as nature.com reports. There have been key advances and National Geographic states that there may soon be “cheaper sources of electricity”, for example the cost of solar is plummeting faster than experts predicted. This means renewables could become cheaper than fossil fuels. With major companies and states vowing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on their own, there is still some hope we won’t cast an irreversible shadow on future generations. This shift to renewables is a necessity that is in desperate need of expanding. Fossil fuels need to be left behind. They have been shown to be running out anyway, so surely this change is inevitable. But the combination of economic advantages and the fear of how renewables will alter the landscape has ensured fossil fuels have remained at the forefront of energy production, with Trump even vowing to invest in the oil and coal industries. But these economic benefits will only get you so far once the money gained from it needs to be spent protecting people and repairing urban areas from the environmental consequences, such as flooding and extreme weather, caused by said fossil fuels. Furthermore, I think we have forfeited the right to an aesthetically pleasing landscape. I would rather see row upon row of wind turbines out of my window than a polluted and dying landscape.
So, as we stand at the edge of the abyss staring ignorance in the face, we must not be selfish and continue to exploit the landscape for economic gain or the sake of ease and comfort. With the sh*tstorm our ancestors have left us, we must vow to leave this world in better shape and prosperity than it was given to us. Nothing on this Earth is guaranteed and it makes sense that people want to take in order to benefit themselves, but we cannot be so arrogant as to think we can outsmart Mother Nature. For the sake of our future, and the future of those who are yet to carry this burden, we must choose to make changes for the greater good of the masses, for we are all destined to carry the fate of the planet and we are all going to live to feel the repercussions of our choices. This really is all or nothing.
“You are the last, best hope of Earth. We ask you to protect it, or we and all living things we cherish, are history.” – Leonardo di Caprio