Trump foils global climate action

By Tracy Sorensen

One way to deal with a problem is to pretend it doesn’t exist. This is known as denial. This works really well for a while – it can buy you time – but ultimately a problem, by definition, is a thing likely to cause trouble. With the election of Donald Trump, the United States has decided to buy a little more time on the climate change problem.

In amongst all the other stupefying nonsense issuing from Trump’s lips is the idea that global warming is a Chinese hoax and that the international agreement on climate emissions made in Paris last December is a bit of nonsense the world can live without.

Meanwhile, of course, the problem grows. Carbon dioxide emissions do their own thing in the atmosphere without regard to politics, elections, denial or belief. They just keep on accumulating, and they just keep on causing global temperatures to rise.

And the window for an effective response keeps getting narrower. Paris was already scraping the bottom of the barrel: a planet warmed by 1.5 degree Celsius was considered a disaster, but one that we could endure. Beyond that, we’re really asking for it.

Locally, while our eyes and ears were glued to the train wreck of the US election, important legislation was being passed in our own state parliament. This legislation will make it easier to commercialise and sell off public spaces, including beaches, parks and parcels such as the travelling stock routes. It is described as the biggest shake-up of crown land for 120 years.

In our urban centres we could lose open green spaces – essential relief in a hotter climate – to profit-making ventures made of concrete. In the countryside, travelling stock routes that have become corridors of crucial habitat and biodiversity can now more easily be sold off.

We’re in a perfect storm (quite literally, because storms are predicted to become fiercer in a warming climate). We have problems that require careful scrutiny, fearless expert advice and informed public debate. Instead, politics has become a reality TV show in which basic evidence-based science is considered optional.

But there is always hope. Environmental concern and knowledge has been building quietly in the background for a long time. Trump’s ascendancy might turn out to the denialists’ last gasp. And communities are sure to mobilise when nearby parks and parcels of land are under threat.

Tracy Sorensen is the President of Bathurst Community Climate Action Network. Visit www.bccan.org.au