INDEPENDENT NEWS

Why Trump Should Not Win the Election - by Rohan Muir

Published: Tue 8 Nov 2016 04:29 PM
Why Donald Trump Must Not Win by Rohan Muir
Like many people who have kept up with the 2016 US Presidential Election, I have become fascinated with this campaign. It is extraordinary on so many levels. From the distasteful mocking of handicapped people and sexual assault claims, through to email scandals and outright and shameless lying, this election campaign has set new standards and norms of political behaviour. However, one major issue has not been in the spotlight – climate change. There has been no meaningful debate on the issue of climate change in this election and as Paul Krugman points out, “it is disgraceful”. Even in New Zealand there has been little, if any, meaningful debate on what the candidates’ policies around this are.
This polarising issue is coming to a head; climate change is gathering pace, and so is the global drive to fight it. People and organisations fighting climate change are buoyed by recent progress on the political and diplomatic front, which is required in the face of grim scientific statistics. 2016 is turning into the hottest year on record, with a global temperature at least one degree Celsius above the twentieth century average, leading to massive methane gas releases from the melting permafrost, extreme shifts in critical ecosystems and the emerging release of new pathogens. There has been a spate of decisions in the past 12 months, beginning with the Paris Agreement in December 2015, an agreement to stem the use of hydroflurocarbons (HFCs) which was agreed in Kigali in Rwanda, and a first meaningful climate deal by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), to be followed by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), which is tantalizingly close to reaching a similar agreement.
The European-led Paris Agreement is aiming to limit global mean temperatures to below a two degrees’ Celsius increase. Every five years, countries who sign are legally bound to submit a nation climate change plan, also known as ‘Nationally Determined Contributions’ (NDCs), outlining their actions and plans to keep reducing emissions. New Zealand was part of the first tranche of countries to push the agreement through, ratifying the agreement on the fifth of October. This has now been ratified by the required number of member nations, enabling it to come into effect on the fourth of November, just days before the election results – and if current media and polls hold true, it may be a hollow milestone.
Trump has other plans. He will not only repudiate the US’s involvement in the Paris Agreement: he has been explicit about his desire to tear up NATO, weaken connections with China, and destroy the recent nuclear agreement with Iran. I would argue that globalisation is in retreat, maybe this isn’t a bad thing, the inter-connectedness of recent times with the proliferation of international bodies and the internet, has led to a dependence on the global order, which was so strongly highlighted by the GFC of 2007/2008. The rising trend towards anti-globalisation and isolationism and the associated rise of popularism and nationalism are topics that deserve more space for discussion than I can afford them here, but they are key factors in Trump’s momentum in the presidential election. If he becomes president of the United States of America, he will exacerbate these trends with massive and perhaps irrevocable impact on the fight against climate change, or, put simply, preservation of the environment.
Secretary Clinton’s proposals are not sufficient to solve this problem: essentially, her policy on the environment will maintain the current status quo. Nevertheless, as much as a hawkish attack on climate change would be welcome, Clinton will not repudiate the Paris Agreement; and ridiculous as it is that this is now the lowest standard for a presidential candidate to meet, Clinton does not believe that either environmental preservation or that old chestnut, climate change, is a ‘hoax’ conjured up by the Chinese. That is Trump’s view. He seems to believe there is nothing to be concerned about, and that we should just enjoy the “magnificent and clean” air. This is, as the International Panel on Climate Change states, against all scientific consensus – “scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal”; the sea level rose 17cms in the last century, glaciers are in retreat, the Artic sea ice is declining, ice sheets are shrinking, global temperatures are rising, oceans are acidifying, and extreme weather events are on the rise. In a tweet from 2012 he stated that the “Concept of Global Warming Was Created by and for The Chinese” to which he contradicted himself at the first presidential debate on September 26th –
CLINTON: They've looked at my plans and they've said, OK, if we can do this, and I intend to get it done, we will have 10 million more new jobs, because we will be making investments where we can grow the economy. Take clean energy. Some country is going to be the clean- energy superpower of the 21st century. Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. I think it's real.
TRUMP: I did not. I did not. I do not say that.
CLINTON: I think science is real.
TRUMP: I do not say that.
The Chinese government’s top climate change negotiator has recently come out, rejecting Trump’s plan to repudiate the Paris Agreement, stating that a wise political leader should conform with this global trend – 175 countries, as well as the European Union have signed the agreement, a US repudiation would have disastrous effects.
Other countries will act accordingly if the US continues to lead the way; and as the self-described ‘leader of the free world’, they should be leading the way in this debate. The Clean Power Act in the US is just another agreement that Trump will annul or cancel. Trump claims that he will help and support the embattled coal industry, and thus the quintessential American worker, but the US is already moving away from this source of energy, in line with the rest of the world. The coal industry is the biggest contributor to climate change and air pollution, emitting more carbon than any other source of carbon dioxide. However, the industry is in decline. The global usage of coal fell five per cent in the first three quarters of 2015 compared with the year before, natural gas, solar and wind power are all becoming cheaper and more readily available. China has stated its plan to close 4,300 coal mines over the next three years, Canada will phase out coal-fired power generation by 2030 and Scotland closed its last remaining coal-fired power plant earlier this year. Trump derides the renewable energy sector, particularly wind power where he has personal gripes, losing a court case against the construction of wind turbines, which were ‘in sight of his golf course’ in Aberdeenshire, Scotland and ludicrously stating that wind turbines are ‘killing all the golden eagles’. Whatever Clinton’s email woes, Trump will take the United States, and with it, the world, back to the Stone Age. He will approve oil projects in Alaska, he has said as much, his obsession with the coal industry is absurd; fossil fuels are on their way out, the future is heading in another direction; conservative estimates show that sea levels will rise by 200 feet if all the remaining fossil fuels on earth are burned, that will drown most major cities world-wide. This is imperative, there is no inexhaustible fossil fuel supply, the necessary steps are being taken globally to move towards renewables. It is absurd. I watch in dreadful fascination.
If he wins, it will invariably take more than four years for him to extricate the US from its many commitments regarding climate change. However, the term limits on the damage Trump can cause is not the locus of my concern: Trump’s rhetoric and its mainstreaming of fringe beliefs and outmoded positions about geopolitical and environmental factors will affect the national conversation about these issues for much longer. From whatever perspective one views it – as a man-made phenomenon, or a calamity triggered without human intervention – Trump’s ill-considered and ill-informed propaganda moves the area of focus away from any meaningful action to curb the changes that, as mentioned above, are undoubtedly happening.
Reasonable people can agree that the environment needs to be preserved and the measures being taken by the EU and globally should be at the forefront of any global leader’s mind; at the end of the day we need to realise that yes doing greater good for the people right here and now is of course important, but so is preservation of the place where we actually have to live. Meaningful action and progress will require political leadership. President Barack Obama, and particularly his secretary of state, John Kerry, have shown this in recent climate decisions such as the signing of the Paris Agreement and the Kigali deal on HFCs. Continuing this momentum is crucial. For the environment’s sake alone, Hillary Clinton rather than climate sceptic Donald Trump should be the next President of America.

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