Nearly 60 million Americans have voted for a climate-change denier, who calls global warming “bullshit” and a “hoax” perpetrated by the Chinese for canny business reasons.
What will that mean for the planet?
It’s unclear if the US can – and will – formally withdraw from the Paris agreement, which came into force the Friday before the November 8 presidential election. Countries that have ratified the Paris agreement, not least America, the world’s second biggest polluter, are not allowed to withdraw at least until 2020.
But why should that matter to Mr Trump’s America? It could simply stop measuring greenhouse gas emissions with a determined plan to not report back to the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The Paris deal requires the ratifying countries (105 at the moment) to report every five years on the progress they’ve made towards achieving their emissions-control targets. The first reporting period after the deal came into force is 2023. (One might have expected it to be 2021 but extra time has been allowed for the first reporting exercise.)
Here’s what Mr Trump’s America would face if it simply failed to turn in a report to the UN (and especially if he wins a second term and is in office till 2024). Nothing. Zero. Zilch. The Paris agreement has no mechanism to force a country to set a specific target, by a specific date. And there is no penalty for failing to meet targets.
But by going rogue on climate change collaboration with the world, the US will lose moral authority.
Quite apart from everything else, America will be choking itself by emitting more greenhouse gases. The Guardian recently quoted a Lux Research finding that carbon dioxide output would be 16 per cent higher under a Trump presidency were he to complete two terms in the White House.
This because Mr Trump’s America would do the following:
** scrap its Clean Power Plan, which has been helping to cut emissions
** end billions of dollars in funding for clean energy schemes
** allow fossil fuel projects such as the Keystone development and Dakota Access pipeline
** escalate production of coal, oil and natural gas
** encourage investment in high-carbon energy sources
(As an aside, it’s worth noting reports that President-elect Trump is considering the proudly ignorant former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin for his interior secretary. This would mean Ms Palin, who believes fossil fuels are “things that God has dumped on this part of the Earth for mankind’s use”, will rule over America’s fabulous national parks and all the land owned by the Department of Interior. )
Anyway, if the world’s biggest emitter, China, and third biggest polluter, India, were to follow in Trumpian America’s wake, the effects of climate change will be seen and felt right the way around the world. Sea levels would rise further, droughts become longer and more frequent. Domestic conflict will ensue, prompting the exodus of climate change refugees to other parts of the world.
The US itself would not be immune. Trump or not, America shares the planet with everyone else. New York, Miami and Boston would be affected by the rising seas. California, which is in the throes of a three-year drought, could have dry spells that last two or three decades, scientists say. Some months ago, Mr Trump said that he didn’t believe California’s drought, its worst in 1,200 years, really existed.
Mr Trump really does hold the future of our planet in his tiny hands.