January 23, 2017
The 2016 presidential election has sent many people into a state of uncertainty, anger and even despair. As is well publicized now, the pollsters got it wrong. Even the Electoral College has been called into question as a representation of the population’s beliefs. But climate change is an issue that transcends the politics of our nation. Now that some of the dust has settled, I have begun to reflect on the implications of the sociopolitical climate on environmental climate change from the perspectives of progressive action, scientific research, the academy, and global politics. I am not alone in my reflection; indeed I have read and heard many insightful news stories, opinion pieces and conversations on the topic since November. With this post, I aim to gather authoritative, non-partisan resources that summarize current thinking. The following non-exhaustive list of predictions and reflections can serve as a conversational starting place. As always, we at the CCI welcome your comments as well.
- While it remains to be seen what setbacks will actually befall climate change in the US, the Trump transition team has made it clear through cabinet appointments and other actions that it will not support ongoing progress in this area and may even roll back recent policy gains. New York Times: Climate Change and the Incoming Trump Government, Climate Central: What you Should Know about Trump’s Cabinet & Climate
- The COP21 Paris Agreement was the best progress that has been made in history toward actually avoiding some of the most catastrophic effects of climate change. The 1.5 – 2 degree goal of the COP21 Paris Agreement may suffer a setback if the US is to back out, but the other world governments will carry on without us and still achieve historic emissions reductions. COP21: Paris Agreement, Public Radio International: The Trump administration will likely undo progress on climate change and the environment
- The US has and is likely to continue to lose political, moral and intellectual capital on the world stage over global climate change due to our fractured political system. Scientific American: Could Trump Simply Withdraw U.S. from Paris Climage Agreement?
- Research funding on all aspects of climate change may be increasingly difficult to secure through governmental sources. Washington Post: Trump Advisor Proposes Dismantling NASA, Climate Research, The Atlantic: Are Climate Scientists Ready for Trump?
- Academics will be under increasing pressure to downplay their beliefs and involvement in social and economic justice issues that result from climate change. Professor Watchlist, Coalition for Sensible Safeguards: Inquisition Congress, Abetted by Trump, Has Begun
- Local/State Government must take the lead on concrete steps to reduce emissions. World Resources Institute: Cities are Acting on Climate Change. Will the New Administration Join? State of Massachusetts: Executive Order on Climate Change
- The above being said, much action is already underway toward reducing carbon emissions on the national stage, especially through large scale renewable power development. In fact, President Obama’s recent article in Science magzine, The Irreversible Momentum of Renewable Energy, summarizes the progress made.
This outlook may seem rather gloomy, but I see people all around academia taking stands against oppression and ignorance. When leadership fails us, the place to look for progress is where communication remains open among individuals and in communities. In this era of “fake news,” I hope this post and all the honest reporting around the nation will provide insight and keep the conversation fruitful.