“I’m not a Cassandra, but I am a realist. Time is not on our side,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said at COP22.
After decades of wrangling and contentious negotiations, nearly 200 nations agreed to the landmark multilateral climate treaty -- marking a milestone not only for international climate change cooperation, but also for human history. More world leaders assembled at Le Bourget in Paris at the start of COP21 last year. Two weeks later, imbued with a persistent sense of purpose and optimism, all nations adopted the Paris Agreement. I was there, and I felt it myself: a stark contrast to the disappointing end of COP15 six years earlier.
As one month after another broke climate records, momentum for the agreement continued through 2016. The thrilling promise of Paris was capped on Nov. 4 when the Paris Agreement marched past the threshold for enforcement and became international law. We knew there was much hard work yet ahead, but the groundwork was laid. The global community began COP22 in Marrakesh as the first U.N. climate meeting under the Paris Agreement, officially labeled CMA1.
Then, on Nov. 8, Donald Trump secured the electoral college and the U.S. presidency. Trump, a man who appears to understand or care little about climate change, or science in general, vows to end U.S. participation in the Paris Agreement. Though not as easy as he likely imagines, his actions portend a looming climate disaster for billions of people across the globe, including all Americans for whom he now leads.
“With hindsight,” Stern wrote, “I now realize that I underestimated the risks. I should have been much stronger in what I said in the report about the costs of inaction. I underplayed the dangers.
"We have been too slow in acting on climate change," Stern continued. "In particular, we have delayed the curbing of greenhouse gas emissions for far too long. When we published our review, emissions were equivalent to the pumping of 40 to 41 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere a year. Today there are around 50 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. At the same time, science is telling us that impacts of global warming – like ice sheet and glacier melting – are now happening much more quickly than we anticipated.”
But with that hope comes a stark warning:
“People have not sufficiently understood the importance of the next 20 years,” Stern wrote. “They are going to be the most decisive two decades in human history.”
“I ask you on behalf of billions of people around the world: Do your own due diligence before making irrevocable choices,” Kerry said in Morocco. “No one has the right to make decisions that affect billions of people based solely on ideology or without proper input.”
This is no time to be equivocal about climate change. It is a real and present danger. We must oppose any attempt the Trump administration makes to turn its back on the future. If Trump succeeds on climate inaction, America will not be “great again,” and he threatens to bring down the rest of the world with him.
Image credit: Manav Gupta, courtesy flickr
Editor's Note: This post originally published in GlobalWarmingisReal.com
Tom is the founder, editor, and publisher of GlobalWarmingisReal.com and the TDS Environmental Media Network. He has been a contributor for Triple Pundit since 2007. Tom has also written for Slate, Earth911, the Pepsico Foundation, Cleantechnia, Planetsave, and many other sustainability-focused publications. He is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists