Twelve days of meetings on how to achieve emissions targets set in Paris have just come to a close earlier this month in Marrakech, Morocco. But the US election result cast a distinct shadow over the proceedings. There was fear among the 20,000 participants attending the meeting from all around the world that the climate deal would be sabotaged by US President-elect Donald Trump.
Yet some still hope that efforts to save the planet from itself have not been derailed. They trust that the grim realities of climate change may yet be brought home to the new US President as the rabid tone of the campaign trail softens into a more sober post-election dawn.
According to a report put out this month by the World Meteorological Organisation, the past five years have been the hottest ever on record. Detailed analysis reveals “an increasingly visible human footprint on extreme weather and climate events with dangerous and costly impacts”.
In the same week, the United Nations Environment Programme noted a widening gap between increasing greenhouse gas emissions and what the world is doing to reduce them. Commitments made by governments so far are simply not enough to keep up with growth as developing countries pursue industrialisation.
Dangerous levels of global warming will be seen in future unless countries do even more than they agreed upon in Paris. The race is on to contain planetary warming. It will be lost if we cannot keep up with the growth of carbon emissions and fail to put adequate controls in place.
At the launch of the report in Brussels this month, UNEP chief Erik Solheim said: “If we don’t start taking additional action now, we will grieve over the avoidable human tragedy.”
Ahead of the US election, Trump made the absurd charge that climate change was invented by the Chinese to attack American competitiveness. He has vowed to pull his country out of the international climate agreement struck in Paris last December, a deal forged after two decades of painstaking negotiations.
Every year, an estimated 700,000 Mexicans are forced to relocate because of natural resource depletion in the drylands. The spread of desert over African lands is contributing to food insecurity, loss of livelihoods and a stream of migrants
China and the US signed the Paris accord only last September. The agreement to reduce greenhouse gases came into force just days ahead of the American election after enough countries signed up to make it legally binding. Most states in the US were already preparing to implement their obligations under US President Barack Obama’s clean power plan.
Despite rhetoric on releasing America’s corporate grip on political power, Trump has chosen a corporate PR man and climate change denialist to head his energy transition team. With a clear distaste for emissions control, energy lobbyist Michael Catanzaro will likely help pick a new Cabinet. Hard-won regulation on emissions from coal-fired power plants are in peril.
Although technically the US cannot officially withdraw from the UN climate pact for another four years, the Trump administration may simply ignore it and abandon commitments already pledged.
Looking at the economics of it, renewables are the inevitable path forward for our changing world’s energy needs if we are to survive.
In 2014 it was estimated that 19 million people from over 100 countries fled their homes for reasons linked to climate change. Every year, an estimated 700,000 Mexicans are forced to relocate because of natural resource depletion in the drylands. The spread of desert over African lands is contributing to food insecurity, loss of livelihoods and a stream of migrants.
Trump’s campaign cry for a brick-and-mortar border wall on the US-Mexico border to stop migrants looks set to be watered down to an extended fence by Republican lawmakers in Congress. Rather than building a barrier to keep the Mexicans out, the US could take a cue from an initiative to build a great green wall across Africa, aimed at keeping the desert out.
It was in 2007 that the African Union first came up with a recovery strategy to stop the encroaching sands of the Sahara Desert. A ‘mosaic of projects’ across 11 countries from Senegal to Djibouti is aimed at increasing climate resilience for local communities in a region set to be hit by a 3°C to 5°C degree temperature rise by 2050. This is catastrophically higher than the 2°C limit flagged by an international panel of scientists.
Africa’s green wall is a nine-mile wide band of trees and shrubbery across the Sahara’s southern border in the Sahel. Originally planned as a line of trees, it has evolved toward different planting options adapted to local ecosystems and tailored to the needs of communities.
Creating a basic social infrastructure with a green wall aims to bring people back into rehabilitated areas. The project has the backing of many partners, including the UN Environment Programme and the World Bank.
The initiative has evolved into a pan-African sustainable landscape programme to address land degradation and desertification, boost food security and support communities to adapt to climate change.