Over 95 per cent of scientists believe that climate change is taking place and our survival depends on world leaders taking concrete steps to slow it down. Factual data, such as that presented below, cannot be denied, and yet US President Donald Trump believes climate change is a hoax aimed at undermining the US economy.
While the US President has backtracked on some of his electoral campaign promises, when it comes to climate change unfortunately his actions are consistent with his beliefs. In fact, the heads of Trump’s transition team for many important US agencies and departments, including the Energy Department, NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency, all are sceptical about human-caused climate change.
This paves the way nicely for Trump to implement his idea of a US energy policy based heavily on fossil fuel and less on renewable energy. Keeping in mind that currently the US is the second highest carbon dioxide emitter in the world, the situation is expected to get much worse under Trump.
However, one might argue that since the US signed the Paris Agreement in 2016, US emissions will have to be reduced. Unfortunately, this is far from guaranteed. During the presidential campaign Trump said he wanted to pull out of the agreement as it is bad for business. If he takes up this option, it will take around four years to withdraw from the agreement.
He can also take the quicker option by withdrawing from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This will take around a year and would also include withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.
However, an easier option which would not look so radical in the international community is for Trump to ignore, delay or implement lax emission cutting measures. There are really no direct consequences if he opts to do so, since the Paris Agreement leaves it up to every country to set their emission reduction targets.
All global efforts taken to date to curb climate change might be in jeopardy and depend on the actions that will be taken in the US and at international level by Trump in the next couple of months
Ultimately, irrespective of the option chosen by Trump, the US not respecting the Paris Agreement most probably will result in other countries not living up to their obligations under the agreement. Most importantly is the stance China will take in this scenario since it is responsible for almost 30 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions.
In a nutshell, all global efforts taken to date to curb climate change might be in jeopardy and depend on the actions that will be taken in the US and at international level by Trump in the next couple of months. The importance of these decisions to Malta is significant.
Most crucial is that uncurbed global emissions will mean higher and quicker sea level rise, which for Malta will mean larger and faster loss of coastal land. This in turn will significantly undermine the local tourism industry which is focused around these areas.
Also, since Malta already is one of the driest countries in the world, higher temperatures and different rainfall patterns will result in higher stress on our water supply. Water shortage will not only be experienced in Malta but also globally, especially in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
In fact, it is currently estimated that in 10 years’ time the number of people living in water scarcity will increase by 75 per cent. The number will continue increasing as the planet gets warmer and might be significantly higher if the global community does not respect the Paris Agreement.
This in turn will result in global food shortage, which could reach catastrophic levels in as little as 23 years’ time. At this stage global food production will fall permanently short of consumption, which will result in a significant regression in our standard of living.
Malta, as well as in other Mediterranean islands and the northern shores of the Mediterranean, will most probably experience a major refugee influx from Africa where large areas of land will become uninhabitable due to lack of drinking water and crops.
Thus, to conclude, while climate change will inevitably hit Malta, the actions taken by Trump during his administration will dictate the speed and to the extent of these effects.
Ivan Silvio was awarded an MSc with distinction in Environmental Management (Climate Change) by the University of Derby, UK, in November 2016. His study was sponsored by the Malta Government Sponsorship Scheme.
Climate change facts
Fact 1. Carbon dioxide – the main culprit of climate change – in the air is at its highest level in 650,000 years. Carbon dioxide is released through human activities such as burning fossil fuel like coal, oil and gas, as well as natural processes such as respiration.
Fact 2. Fourteen out of the 15 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000.
Fact 3. Over the past 20 years, sea levels have risen at roughly double the rate of the preceding 80 years. Most studies indicate that by the end of this century the sea level is expected to rise by 0.8 to two metres.