Picture [c] The New Yorker
These are sad days – we are seeing the rise of populists and fascists in much of Europe and in the United States. The election of Donald Trump also poses a serious threat to the climate. He has on several occasions denied that climate change is occurring, and even stated that ‘[t]he concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive’– despite overwhelming scientific evidence (and lived experience from communities already feeling the effects).
We would like to highlight some policies which we think are particularly harmful for the environment:
- Lift restrictions on fracking. If we want to stay within the “safe” levels of climate change (1.5- 2°C warming), at least 80 percent of fossil fuels need to stay in the ground. This is not the time to dig up more – especially not in a way that is harmful to health and communities.
- Cancel payments to the United Nations Green Climate Fund. The United States has historically contributed the most to global warming and has in this process benefited economically. The Fund is meant to help developing nations who are often lacking the funds to develop in a sustainable way, to do so. It should also be noted that developing nations are feeling a disproportionate amount of the effects of climate change. It is therefore essential that developed nations, including the United States, contribute.
- Allow the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. President Obama blocked the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, following large demonstrations. It is a very contested project, as it will result in more oil being transported from the Canadian tar sands. The extraction of oil in the Canadian tar sands uses some of the most polluting extraction methods known, and is also threatening indigenous communities as much of the extraction is done on their land. Furthermore, the pipeline also comes with risks of oil spills and water contamination.
- Withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. It should be noted that the Paris Agreement – which sets out to limit climate change to ‘well below 2°C’ – is a flawed agreement, since the pledges from each country is likely to result in twice as high temperatures. However, withdrawing from the agreement would mean departing from what the United States’ has pledged (and signed) to achieve. Nevertheless it should be noted that since the Paris Agreement reached enough signatories earlier this year to come into effect, it is not a simple process to just leave the agreement – it would take the United States 1-4 years to leave it.
How much power does Trump have?
Climate action does not just happen on state level – but also on lower levels, such as city level. Initiatives such as C40, which is bringing mayors together to cooperate and enforce actions to decrease greenhouse gas emissions also have an effect on the climate. Furthermore, we must not forget that civil society actors (NGOs, citizens, etc) also have power. Through the power in numbers, we can challenge Trump’s rule.
Keep on fighting
Public protest, including examples such as Gandhi’s salt marches, actions by the U.S.’ civil rights movement and demonstrations by the suffragettes, have worked to achieve progressive change, both in the past and in the present. No leader ever has complete power; their ideas and policies are also affected by the actions of the public. Therefore, we must step up our game, and continue building our alliances with other groups also against Trump’s (and similar leaders’) policies and show that we are plenty in opposition.
Furthermore, according to one poll, 22 percent of Sanders’ supporters stated that they would vote for Trump following Sanders’ loss in the Democratic presidential nominations. This suggests that not all Trump voters actually back all of Trump’s policies- but rather treated the election as a protest vote against the status quo. This is further supported by the fact that 39 percent of people questioned in the exit poll stated that they had voted for ‘change’ – and out of those, Trump received 83 percent and Clinton only 14 percent. Similar events also happened in Brexit. It also means that we, as a movement, must reach out to the people who at the moment feel disenfranchised and show that another world is possible. This also means critically reflecting on how we have failed to do so, so far, and how to improve.
Lastly, we must also show our support to all those who feel threatened by Trump’s policies. In his election campaign he has suggested policies threatening to LGBTQ+ communities, people of colour, immigrants and women. Fossil Free Strathclyde has suggested a letter-writing campaign to threatened groups to show support and solidarity with them through these hard times (details will be updated through their webpage and Facebook page), which we also will participate in.
If you want to join our group, you can like our Facebook page: facebook.com/gucasociety or subscribe to our mailing list by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the topic “subscribe to email list”. You can also just come along to our next meeting which will be on Monday 14th of November, at 5 pm in room 718 Adam Smith Building.