There are many reasons to be concerned about a Donald J Trump presidency – and climate change is right up there at the top. But Steve Malkin, founder of The Planet Mark™, says there’s still reason to be positive.
Climate scientists and environmentalists are warning that a Trump administration could mean “game over for the climate”. They have a point. Not only has Trump vowed to cut clean energy funding, dismantle the Obama-Clinton Climate Action Plan and scrap America’s Clean Power Plan, he’s described climate change as a Chinese hoax designed to damage American business. And, of course, he’s promised to exit the Paris Climate Agreement – a global pact, which came into force on November 4, to keep the global temperature rise below a 2C threshold, the point at which scientists say we risk unleashing catastrophic climate change.
Shares in renewable businesses fell immediately on the news of Trump’s victory on November 8. Since then reports are suggesting Trump’s cabinet in waiting could include oil billionaire Harold Hamm as energy secretary, Myron Ebell, a climate skeptic, as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and climate change denier Sarah Palin as interior secretary.
These seem dark days indeed for those of us working in the environmental and sustainability sectors, and only time will tell how events will play out.
So what grounds, if any, are there to remain positive?
I believe there are, and here’s 4 reasons why:
We know candidates in elections often make promises to voters that they choose not to fulfil once in power. It certainly seems that Trump has said whatever it takes to win power – and amongst many other things, that’s included backtracking on some policy pledges. For example, after saying he’d abolish the Environmental Protection Agency, he then changed his mind saying he’ll reshape it instead, he’s reported to have softened his position on rolling back President Obama’s healthcare bill, and most recently, he told the New York Times that he believed there was “some connectivity” between humans and climate change.
Trump’s victory may threaten global efforts to fight climate change, but it won’t be easy for him to derail what is already underway. According to experts, it would take the US three years to pull out of the Paris Agreement. China has already indicated it will not be blown off course because of a climate sceptic Trump administration. And environmental groups in the US are vowing to fight tooth and nail in the courts, if necessary, to stop Trump dismantling the climate framework (incidentally, donations to charitable groups have surged since Trump’s victory). The global business community, meanwhile, knows business as usual is not and option and companies that have long-term sustainability targets in place are unlikely to put them in reverse when so much is at stake.
In the same way as Brexit did in Britain, the US election has shown how deeply divided the country is; Trump won the electoral college vote, but Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. In what feels like a last hurrah for fossil fuels and the good ol’ days, the slogan ‘Let’s Make America Great Again’ certainly resonated with many, but others, especially the young, did not feel the same way. Among 18 to 29 year olds, 55% voted for Clinton. This gives reason to be hopeful, particularly as [three quarters of younger adults in the US want action on climate change from their leaders]((http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/264767-poll-70-percent-believe-in-climate-change).
As unpalatable and gruesome as the Trump campaign was, it was effective. In part, it won people over by telling lies and untruths, in much the same way as the Brexit campaign did. This provides a clear challenge for those of in the business of accelerating sustainability and action on climate change, since we have to work with the evidence and the facts, but there is still much we can learn from this campaign and how it was won. As respected climate change expert, Dr Emily Shuckburgh, head of open oceans at the British Antarctic Survey, says: “A significant theme of recent political discourse has been the use and misuse of evidence. In moving forward, rather than bemoan a “post-truth world”, those of us who have roles in gathering, curating and disseminating evidence must strive to understand the process of human decision-making better […] That requires broad and deep engagement by us with all sections of the wider society to understand the contextual circumstances and to proactively place the evidence in frames that are relevant to people.”
Now is the time to re-double our efforts to communicate effectively about climate change. We are in a rapidly changing world and in a transition to a more sustainable way of living. We have to help put the case for a brighter future to those who are fearful of change and what it might bring.
And, I’d like to end on a piece of positive anecdotal news: we at The Planet Mark™ have never been busier or had more inquiries. Organisations are still choosing, voluntarily, to make their own positive impacts on society and the environment. They are being led by business leaders and also by their employees. Together they are passionate, knowledgeable people, who are aware of the issues and their ability to make things better. Let’s do it together.Your text to link here…