Trump causes concern at Marrakech climate change meeting

The election of the new US president coincided with the UN Climate Change Conference in Marrakech, and the result led to reactions. Donald Trump has not presented himself as a fan of climate change agreements, and has called environmental science a ‘bluff’. Two researchers from LiU have discussed some of the environmental issues currently facing.

Eva Lövbrand, senEva Lövbrandior lecturer, was at the meeting in Marrakech when it became clear that Trump had won. This time she hasn’t followed the negotiations; she has studied the activists who are present. She says that many participants at the Marrakech conference are concerned about Donald Trump’s alliances with the fossil-fuel industry and that the implementation of the Paris Agreement could be at risk.

“But there is also talk that the US will fall behind other countries, in terms of environmental policy. Some meeting participants hope that China will shoulder the role of leader in international environmental policy, while others believe the EU will pull together in the light of a weakened United States,” she says.

  In Marrakech, Eva Lövbrand passed the baton to Professor Björn-Ola Linnér. He will continue to work on the research project dubbed “The Global Potluck”, which will study the commitments proposed by various countries.

How can Donald Trump’s election affect the climate change agreement?

Björn-Ola Linnér:Photo credit: LiU
“I see three scenarios. The first is that he pulls out of the Paris Agreement, which he has said he will do. But that will take an entire presidential term, so in practice he won’t have time.”

“The second is that the US pulls out of the entire climate change convention. That would be a very drastic move, and he hasn’t said he plans to do this. But it’s certainly possible – and it could be done in a year.”

“The most likely scenario is that he concentrates on domestic aspects. This would include softening American climate change and energy legislation. As a result, they wouldn’t be able to meet their commitments under the climate change convention, but since there are no sanctions in place, in practice there would be no consequences for the US. In my view this would be the easiest solution for Trump.”

On several occasions, Donald Trump has called environmental science a bluff. As an environmental scientist, what are your thoughts on this?

“In a debate, Hillary Clinton said that he had called environmental science a bluff. “Wrong!” he responded. But it’s easy to see that he has said that. It’s hard to tell whether he actually believes it’s a bluff, or if he’s just saying that. But even saying it is very serious, because he’s spreading that perception.”

“As a researcher, Donald Trump’s anti-intellectual, anti-science attitudes are also a great concern to me. Several of my colleagues are genuinely worried about how this could play out, in the years to come. He could cut funding to research, and this would affect energy and environmental research, but this could also apply to research in other fields.”

Does his election raise any other concerns?

In terms of green issues, one problem is the advisers he surrounds himself with. Several are hard-core climate change deniers, including recent appointment Myron Ebell, who has been assigned to review the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“At the same time, we mustn’t forget that Donald Trump is a fickle man. In conjunction with the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit, he and several other industry leaders signed an open letter to President Obama, urging swift action on climate change. It’s important to remember that he has changed his mind before. He doesn’t have ideological convictions, he’s a businessman. He spots where there is a market share in the political sphere, and capitalises on it. Regrettably, with considerable success.”

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