This October while the global average temperature hit a record high, wildfires in California raged, throwing the state into emergency. Climate change has caused disasters worldwide. In an open letter, more than 20,000 scientists from around the world have called on governments to face climate change and act immediately. Ironically, the United States, the world’s second largest producer of carbon emissions, began the process of withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement in April. This has hindered global operations to reduce carbon emissions and has set back the U.S. economy and industry.
Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, founder and director emeritus of Germany's Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, pointed out that many ecosystems around the world, such as the ice fields in Greenland and the Amazon rain forest, are approaching an irreversible point. The Amazon, in particular, absorbs large amounts of carbon dioxide, a function crucial to maintaining climate stability. Once the burning and logging of the rain forest by humans reaches a certain point, the entire rain forest ecosystem will collapse, unable to recover. This will be a catastrophe.
In early November, 20,000 scientists from all over the world issued a joint letter warning that global warming is happening faster than imagined, and the climate crisis has become a climate emergency. They further warned that if humans want to ensure a sustainable future, they must enact huge changes immediately. Individuals must make lifestyle changes, consuming less meat and avoiding food waste. Governments must eliminate subsidies for fossil fuels and guide industries toward a low carbon economy. Countries must stop burning and destroying forests and instead strengthen reforestation. Economic growth means more than having a strong gross domestic product growth rate; it means promoting prosperity.
Aware of the global warming crisis that has already reached a critical point, scientists who typically bury themselves in their labs and research have felt the need to stand up and warn policymakers and the public to take action. The climate crisis is imminent. If people do not change but continue to burn fossil fuels and emit large quantities of greenhouse gases, economic growth will be unsustainable and the situation will be catastrophic for the next generation.
Nevertheless, despite serious warnings from the scientific community, Donald Trump remains shortsighted. To protect the interests of the petrochemical and coal industries, he did not hesitate to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. This withdrawal goes against international consensus regarding the need to reduce carbon emissions and is a serious blow to the domestic green energy industry. His actions will not only slow the green transformation of U.S. industry, but will also make the goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 even less attainable.
In addition to withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement, the Trump administration has greatly relaxed environmental regulations around coal-fired power plants — namely, those regulating the time frame within which coal ash, wastewater and heavy metals must be treated. Environmental groups criticize the move, saying it will give the coal industry too much leeway, ruining the advancement environmental protections have achieved. Moreover, the administration announced that it will open up land near the Arctic Circle in Alaska next month for oil drilling. Although related industries will profit greatly, this move is extremely disheartening.
According to recent polls, more than half the American people believe that climate change is a serious threat. Among Democrats, 67% feel that the government should prioritize policies addressing climate change. In response, many of the Democratic candidates hoping to run in the presidential race next year have proposed new green policies. By contrast, Republicans feel little urgency about the climate crisis; only 21% believe climate change policies should be a priority.
Many of the Trump administration’s actions have been to protect the interests of the oil and coal industries, resulting in the unscrupulous emission of huge amounts of carbon dioxide. Environmental warrior Greta Thunberg said, “How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words." If American voters wake up, they should vote to get rid of this politician who steals the future of the next generation.