Recent leaks from cabinet members and high ranking congressional Republicans have highlighted the fact that having the enormous power of the American presidency in the hands of Donald Trump places us all in danger, regardless of our politics, religion, gender, or nationality.
Even if Trump’s clumsy diplomacy does not start a great power war, his environmental policies are already making a climate disaster more likely, if not unavoidable.
The White House claims that its environmental policies are not driven by concern for the global environment, but instead by the desire to put America first, but Americans are also hurt by climate change.
According to a National Geographic article by Michael Greshko, Laura Parker, and Brian Clark Howard, “tidal flooding has increased at least fivefold” in American coastal cities since the 1960s. The article goes on to cite a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists which concludes that 670 American communities are at risk from flooding due to climate change.
Even if Trump’s duties as leader of the free world stopped at America’s borders, he would still be obligated to confront climate change. Unfortunately, Trump does not acknowledge that climate change is a reality, and his actions so far have made the problem much worse.
The window for meaningful action on climate change is closing fast. According to an article in Nature by Christiana Figueres and her colleagues, it will become almost impossible to limit the global average temperature increase to less than two degrees celsius if carbon emissions do not start to decline after 2020. While two degrees might not seem to be that large of a temperature increase, the previous article also notes that in the present day, the harms from a one degree global average temperature increase are already being felt.
These harms include “intensified heatwaves, drought, and sea level rise.” While climate scientist do not all agree that the two degree increase represents the maximum amount of warming society can adapt to, it is the goal set by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. As president of the United States, Trump has enormous influence over whether or not the world reaches this goal in time.
Trump’s climate policy is putting the climate game farther out of reach while the clock is running down in the fourth quarter. PBS Newshour estimates that Trump’s domestic climate policies, if not moderated by congressional legislation, judicial action, or private sector trends, will put 1.8 gigatons more CO2 and other greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere by 2030 then would have been emitted under Obama’s policies. If this generation is to successfully avert the worst harms of climate change, it will have to be done without the help of the White House.
Donald Trump is failing his moral duty to address the threat of climate change. Not only is he not pushing for meaningful climate progress while there is still time, but he is also increasing the magnitude of the problem. On climate change, as with many other of today’s most important issues, Trump is turning the presidency from a powerful force of inspiration and support for those who seek to improve the world into an equally powerful obstacle to be overcome on the road to progress.
Isaac Stone, Sandy, is a sophomore at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.