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Trump turbo-charges the fight against climate change

Jun 12 2017 05:00
Mandi Smallhorne*

MY BARBERTON daisies have died, all but one tough little plant that’s surviving on little more than a few drops of morning dew, having gone without watering or rain for several weeks.

Why not water your garden, I’ve been asked? After all, they’ve lifted the water restrictions in Johannesburg.

It’s a matter of stubborn principle – I know that all around me watering and car-washing is going on, I just can’t bring myself to do it. The dams may be full as of right now, but we still have a roughly 50% chance of another droughty El Niño starting in September, and I have a feeling we might need all the water we can get next summer and next winter.

Meanwhile the Cape cowers under the lash of big storms, and while we don’t yet know (at the time of writing) what caused the devastating fires along the Garden Route, fires such as these and the ones that ravaged California are all part of the climate change picture.

Fires, extreme weather, droughts: all precisely what the climate models have predicted, turning up just as expected.

But still, I’m feeling remarkably cheerful about the climate change scenario today. I think Donald Trump may turn out to be our best weapon ever in the fight for a liveable climate. Yes, I think there might actually be a reason to be glad of the 45th President of the USA, after all.

Don’t choke over your coffee, I haz my reasons!

Like most people, I snorted over Trump’s ill-informed speech on June 1 withdrawing from the Paris accord. Like many another concerned person, I felt despair, despite this story, which appeared just before the announcement:

"…the EU and China are joining forces to forge ahead on the implementation of the Paris agreement and accelerate the global transition to clean energy."

 And then this popped up in my feed:

“We are increasing investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. We will buy and create more demand for electric cars and trucks. We will increase our efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, create a clean energy economy, and stand for environmental justice,” the letter reads.

“[I]f the President wants to break the promises made to our allies enshrined in the historic Paris Agreement, we’ll build and strengthen relationships around the world to protect the planet from devastating climate risks."

This is a quote from a letter signed by (so far) 76 mayors of cities across the USA. And not just the mayors of Boston and New York and Los Angeles; the mayor of Pittsburgh has signed (yes, ‘strue), as has the mayors of Gary, Indiana, Minneapolis and Salt Lake City.

Next up was this story: “China and California have signed an agreement to work together on reducing emissions...

“The governor of California, Jerry Brown, spoke to reporters at an international clean energy conference in Beijing […]

“For now, he said, China, European countries and individual US states would fill the gap left by the federal government’s decision to abdicate leadership on the issue.”

And then, of course, this: “Rebuffing Trump’s suggestion that the climate accords could be ‘renegotiated’, EU officials have decided to cut out the White House entirely, and will instead deal directly with governors, mayors, and CEOs of major corporations. This will include the Climate Alliance, a growing bipartisan group of states that have vowed to uphold the terms of the accord.”

And “At the same time, China and the EU have vowed to make sure that the Green Climate Fund – donations from wealthy nations to help poorer countries meet their carbon-cutting targets – will be maintained, despite America’s refusal to pay. By 2020, they will be paying $100bn a year into the fund, something that is essential for the survival of low-income nations.”

So it sounds a lot less like wishful thinking when Gebru Jember Endalew, chair of the Least Developed Countries Group, says: “The international community won't wait for the US to catch up. Transformations in technology, consumption patterns and demand for clean, green innovations are charging ahead of political will around the world. Countries are learning that taking advantage of these innovations is not only smart for the climate, but smart for the economy.”

Yes! A planet united can never be divided – even though the divisive force is the administration currently running the largest economy on earth, representing 22% of world GDP and 17% of gross work product. (After all, quite a lot of the US economy is California, now the sixth largest economy in the world, and California is part of the pushback.)

Perhaps a pushback against Trump is the turbo-charge that will boot countries into serious and meaningful action. The world has so far reacted to the Trump administration with a kind of dazed, open-mouthed paralysis; perhaps this has given everyone a focus, something to do that actively shows resistance.

Go guys go! It’s late, but let’s ride this wave of resistance to make sure it’s not too little, too late to save a liveable environment for all of us. From a drought-ravaged South Africa, scoured by storm and fire, we’re right behind you.

As Isaac Asimov once said, we need a new, global patriotism: “My planet, ‘tis of thee I sing…”  Or in the words of President Makron, let’s make our planet great again!

* Mandi Smallhorne is a versatile journalist and editor. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter.

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