Whilst many Americans took the opportunity to buy discounted goods on the annual Black Friday event, the President of the United States (US) seemingly missed out on the deal of the century – a chance to save the planet. ‘Quietly’ published on a busy Black Friday, Trump’s own administration produced its Fourth National Climate Assessment, detailing the devastating impacts of climate change backed with independent evidence. With the report differentiating climate change from a once distant problem to a now critical danger, President Trump responded to evidence in the report by stating, “I don’t believe it.” Instead, Trump directed criticism to Japan and China, claiming, “we’re at the cleanest we’ve ever been.”
The National Climate Assessment is produced by 300 independent scientists and through collaboration with multiple federal agencies such as NASA. Containing over 1,600 pages it represents an instrumental report on the damaging impacts of an ever-present, human-made change in climate. A significant point raised by the report highlighted the multiple impacts of climate change as worsening issues “that are already present in the country”. The US President claims to have read “some of it,” and this has not been the first time Trump has discredited climate change evidence. A similar response was shown to a report made by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) earlier this year, and of course in 2017 when the US pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement.
Responding to criticism from the Trump administration claiming that the report was only relevant in a ‘worst-case-scenario’, atmospheric scientist Katharine Hayhoe stressed how the report had in fact tested a ‘very broad range of scenarios’. Various experts and international organisations have echoed the report’s findings, which link climate change to ongoing conflicts in the world. This is reinforced by experts at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) who designate climate change as a security risk.
The comments made by the US President illustrate that the opportunity to save the world through means of reducing climate change poses a significant political issue. Whilst maintaining that the US is already doing all it can to stay clean clean, President Trump attacks other countries for not doing enough and transfers the responsibility away from the US. Two examples of this can be seen through the President’s negative stance towards NATO and in the influx of migration at the Mexico border. This neglect to acknowledge the proximate effects of climate change, as evidenced with the increasing temperatures and extreme weather systems, not only affects the US in instances such as the recent California wildfires, but also critically endangers the security of other often less developed countries.
Even if President Trump refuses to use the term ‘climate change’, the increasing temperatures and rising sea levels are both proximate and long-term dangers to peace and security. One can see already the impacts of rising sea levels in the growing number of refugees and displaced persons, and with the US employing a strict stance towards migration, there is an ever-increasing threat to those who seek asylum in the ‘land of the free’. As leaders meet to discuss the issue of climate change at the upcoming Paris Agreement, it is becoming clear that President Trump’s omission to act is quite possibly a threat as damaging as climate change itself.
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