With the US in a state of denial about climate change, no matter what India and others do, the consequences will have to be borne
With two separate studies showing that the United States, the world’s second-largest carbon emitter after China, showed a massive spike in carbon emissions last year, climate scientists are worried that this will mean that it will make no attempt to temper its needs, withdrawn as it has officially from the Paris Climate accord, though that process of delinking will take three years. That said, with a climate-change sceptic in the White House and senior positions in Donald Trump’s administration filled with persons who doubt modern climate science while overturning Obama-era carbon reduction programmes, and with an assurance that the United States will withdraw from the Paris Accords by 2020, can the world depend on it?
It was almost certain that Trump would advocate a nativist and isolationist policy on many fronts. However, his denial of climate science and overturning carbon reduction schemes of the past are worrying as it becomes increasingly evident that the world is enduring more extreme climate events driven by higher overall temperatures. Ironically, much of the increased carbon emissions from the US took place despite coal-fired power plants closing and at a time when it is becoming a leader in clean-energy technologies and electric vehicles. It appears that the US economy doing well has led to more diesel haulage and a spike in air travel that have contributed to this carbon spiral. With US companies less concerned with environmental sanctions by regulators, they have not bothered to clean up their act. It is imperative for the US to stand up and face down the problem of global warming. While a nativist policy might appeal to Trump’s voter-base, the fact is that the US will also face consequences. Meanwhile extreme events like Hurricane Katrina that destroyed the city of New Orleans are expected to become commonplace. While other countries, including India, have stood up and are trying desperately to combat climate change and cap carbon emissions, meaningful change will be impossible without the US. It is, therefore, going to be important for countries like India to start preparing better for the consequences which will impact hundreds of millions of people in the country with sea-levels rising and the Himalayan glaciers melting rapidly. However, changing the US President’s mind on this seems like a difficult task, and with other major global leaders facing challenges of their own, this has gone off the backburner. By the time we get into acting about it, the fire might have gone out of control.