S President Donald J Trump has backtracked from his former stand that climate change is a hoax, with riders though. He maintains that he does not know if it is man-made and suggests that the climate will “change back again”. It is a welcome change to the extent that Trump has accepted that climate change is for real, even though he still has doubts whether it is man-made or not.
Perhaps the devastating hurricane seasons over the past few years have brought about the change in his understanding of the matter. Trump is still worried about the trillions that his country may have to part with, at the cost of millions of jobs, to commit to amelioration of climate change. But the more he delays the commitment, the more difficult it will be for the world to claw back from the changes wrought upon us by that change taking place so visibly. It must be accepted that the possibility of Trump returning to his original stance is always alive, as he feels climate commitment will subvert his country’s interests. The question is whether the environmental health of the world can be sacrificed at the altar of America’s interests while acknowledging that the rest of the world can do little about it.
Recently, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has come out with a report that suggests that it may be possible to limit human-induced global warming to 1.5C if we are committed to it.
The IPCC, though, has also warned that it will not be easy. According to this report, human activity has already caused global warming by about 1C and that the rate of warming at present, that is, 0.2C per decade, will lead to a 1.5C by about 2040. It also points out that national pledges made under the Paris Agreement will still lead to warming of about 3C by 2100. The report says that to restrict global warming to 1.5C a decline of emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 is essential. It also says that by 2050, carbon dioxide emissions will have to reach a “net zero” — that is carbon dioxide released into the environment should equal the quantity removed from it — by means including plantation of trees. This situation will have to be ensured by about 2075 so that a 2C target can be met. Throughout all this, the Earth will lose much in terms of biodiversity, polar ice caps, coral reefs and such other aspects of nature while sea levels would rise. A comparison given in the report between a world that is warming at 1.5C and at 2C is that if summertime Arctic sea ice would disappear in a century at 1.5C rise, it would disappear in a decade at 2C. The IPCC, while recognising the challenges before achieving ambitious climate targets, notes that the improvement in feasibility of solar, wind and electricity storage mechanisms over time will help the world progress towards achieving the targets.
Against this backdrop, America will have a major role in the outcome of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting, at Katowice in Poland, early December. There can be no development on the climate front unless America, as the biggest economy in the world and as the second biggest polluter, plays a pivotal role. Trump has taken a step in the right direction now. He should move forward in the interest of not just America but also the entire world.