President-elect Donald Trump and the Environment

Posted by Colm, With 0 Comments, Category: Church News, Church Reform, Latest News,

Are we in a nightmare scenario?
Fr. Seán McDonagh, SSC

I certainly did not expect to wake up on November 10th 2016 to hear that Donald Trump had been elected president of the United States. As a candidate he had offended Muslims, Mexicans, African Americans and many others with his populist rhetoric and bombastic tones. During his campaign Trump suggested that under his administration, Muslims might be listed and have their names recorded in a national database. They might be forced to carry special identification cards, and subjected to intensified surveillance in their places of worship – which would seem to be against the First Amendment. Donald Trump attacked Khizr Khan, a Pakistani immigrant whose son, Army Capt. Humayun Khan, died in Iraq in 2004.

Donald Trump has insulted women for decades. A famous example during the presidential campaign was his attack on Fox News host Megan Kelly. Mr Trump questioned her professionalism and suggested that she treated him unfairly at the Republican debate in 2016 because she was menstruating. Later he denied this. In the course of a bitterly divided campaign, many women claimed that Mr. Trump had molested them at one time or another, nevertheless, 53 % of white women voters voted for Trump. How do you now encourage teenagers, especially teenage boys, to respect woman?

As candidate, Donald Trump promised to deport 3 million “illegal immigrant criminals” from the United States. He got the maths wrong because there are not 3 million illegal immigrants criminals in the United States. To fulfil his promise will he now deport immigrants who are not criminals, but people who contribute hugely to the US economy and culture?

In my estimation, the most significant and destructive changes which the Trump presidency will initiate, not just for the United States, but for people around globe, are in his raft of disastrous environmental policies. On numerous occasions Mr. Trump has called human-induced climate change a “hoax”. If Mr. Trump follows through on his campaign promises the world would not be able to avoid the most devastating consequences of global warming, including rising sea levels, extreme droughts and food shortages, and more powerful floods and storms. Extremely weather is already having major impacts around the world, from the current famine in East Africa to the bleaching of 20% of corals on the Great Barrier Reef. 2016 is projected to be the hottest year in recent history.

Donald Trump will lead a double-pronged attack in on climate change initiatives. First of all, he has vowed to cancel the climate agreement which was forged at COP 21 in Paris in December 2015 and signed by 195 countries. If President Trump removes the United States from this agreement, as President George W. Bush did by taking the US out of the Kyoto agreement, it is unlikely that the global community will be able to keep the increase in average global temperature below 2º Celsius above preindustrial levels during the 21st century. This will have horrendous consequences for the poor, as Pope Francis pointed out in Laudato Si’ “that the worst impacts (of climate change) will be felt by developing countries in coming decades” (No. 25). Writing in The Guardian, John Vidal quotes a United Nations expert report which claims that “It will cost Africa approximately $350bn a year to adapt its farming and infrastructure to climate change if governments fail to hold temperatures to less than 2ºC and allow them to rise to about 4ºC, according to the report.”[1]

If the United States abandons its responsibilities under the Paris agreement, many other countries might renege on their responsibilities. Industrial lobbies in every country, especially those associated with the fossil fuel industries, will do everything in their power to oppose reductions in carbon emissions. Politicians will be very vulnerable to such pressures, because they are often so obsessed with current issues that they fail to appreciate the long term damage destructive environmental policies.

Finally, the election of Mr. Trump cast a pall over COP 22 in Marrakesh, Morocco where global negotiators gathered in November for a 12-day conference to trash out the next steps for the Paris accord. These include how to verify commitments which countries have made, and how to pay for enforcement by poor countries that cannot afford the technology or energy disruptions.

In the Trump presidency, how will the United States as the largest per capita emitter of greenhouse gases, be held accountable under the Warsaw International Mechanisms for loss and damages caused by climate change in poor countries?

Are we in a nightmare scenario! Hopefully, environmental and Church groups will challenge him on every step along the way of his destructive policies. We owe it to future generations.

[1] John Vidal, “Cost of climate change adaptation could destabilise African countries, UN warns,” The Guardian, November 20th 2013.…/climate-change-adaptation-cos….