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Why I Am Hoping Trump Doesn't Sign The G7 Climate Deal

30/05/2017 12:01
BenGoode via Getty Images

At the time of writing President Trump has yet to say whether or not he will sign the G7 confirmation of the Paris Climate Accord. If he does sign up then we have set in stone a deal which probably spells humanity's end. If he doesn't sign up then we have a situation where everyone who supports the Paris Climate Accord is on the side of good, against the evil of Trump and his allies. That will do a great deal to cement the value of the Paris Climate Accord in the hearts and minds of all right thinking and decent people, and hence spell humanity's end. But at least that second scenario unsettles the consensus behind the global targets regime, sets up a fracture line that can be worked on, prised apart and so offer the chance to pull down this failed edifice in favour of something better.

So why would someone who is deeply worried about climate change be siding with Trump and against the other members of the G7 on this issue? Let me list some of the reasons for questioning the current direction and framing of climate policy.

1. The warming the deal commits us to offers a very bleak future; the lead authority on protecting the Great Barrier Reef recently claimed "The safe levels (of warming) for coral reefs, probably we've passed already." A billion people are dependent on coral reefs, so an approach to climate change that has already ensured the extinction of a global ecosystem is a difficult thing to celebrate.

2. We can do better - but only if we remove the conceptual yoke of the 2C/1.5C global climate target and stop framing the debate around climate science and probabilistic assessments of acceptable harm and cost-benefit analyses. The debate needs to be removed from the ideological shackles of economics and esoteric global satellite monitoring systems and brought back into participatory inclusive dialogues about how it is we want to live. The research evidence is clear that here in the UK, values associated with benevolence are widespread, but we fail to recognise that in our fellow humans because we are not given the chance to sit down together and talk about these sorts of things. Building a world on the basis of those values is more likely to save us than measuring our way to the apocalypse.

3. We have had over 20 years of searching for the magic number that will guide us all to the promised land, of a pollution free version of today's world. Two things to note, to demonstrate the failure of this effort. First, for a long time there was a consensus that two degrees of warming was sufficient to solve climate change; as long as the planet did not arm by more than this we would be safe. Politicians, NGOs and journalists reassured anyone who cared that we knew this because the scientists had told us so. But that wasn't true. And it has been proved not to be true because now we are told scientists are telling us 1.5C is the dangerous limit. Not only is this no way to protect humanity from harm, the dangerous limits frame doesn't work as a political device. How do I know? Because here we are, now waiting for the world's most powerful nation to kick it out of the window.

4. No one (the public) don't care. That is why no one is mentioning climate change in the UK during the current general election campaign. Discussion of climate targets is a turn off, an irrelevance to ordinary people.

There is nothing to be done, but grit our teeth, side with president Trump and face up to the fact that we have been getting it wrong on climate change mitigation for 20 years. The world is in turmoil; all the taken for granted political facts of the past 20 years are being overturned. Let's not leave the most important issue out of it. It is time to start again.

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