Monday, 14 November 2016

Could Trump's election be the impetus we need to do something about climate change?

Don't get me wrong - I'm no Trump supporter. But his anti-climate change stance could provide the pressure that's needed to get a meaningful plan put in place to tackle this pressing world problem.

A while ago, a website labelled me a green heretic, by which they meant that I thought it essential we use science, technology and economics to tackle green issues, rather than relying on fluffy bunny, feel-good gestures. I was delighted. We need more green heresy - and I think Trump could be the stimulus to make this happen.

Climate change is real and a huge threat to the future population of the world - I'm sorry, deniers, but the science is solid, it's only the models dealing with how fast it will hurt us that are subject to question. It will be a disaster unless we do something about it. (I ought to say, though, that you needn't worry about saving the planet. The Earth itself will shrug whatever we do off in a few million years. It really doesn't care. This is about saving humanity.)

I'm afraid for all their meetings involving vast numbers flying around the world, the scientists and politicians trying to sort this out have not got the right balance. And worse, they don't understand people. We humans are capable of being aware that something is bad for us and still carrying on doing it. (Big Mac with a double espresso martini, anyone?) It's not enough to make scary predictions and agree to limit something you only have limited control over. We need to be investing more right now in two things. In energy sources that don't produce greenhouse gasses - both classic 'renewables' and nuclear - and in technology to actively reduce the temperature or take greenhouse gasses out of the atmosphere. At the moment, both of these essentials are underfunded.

It's a matter of pragmatism. Even without the Trump effect (I am not referring to farting cows), we will overshoot what we need to do. And now it could be even worse. So stop assuming it's enough to be scary and appeal to doing the right thing and start taking practical steps to mitigate it. That means more money for research. Not just from governments either. It's great that, for instance, Bill and Melinda Gates are putting so much into Malaria research. But this is an even bigger problem long term - and we should see some more billionaires shedding their billions for their children' sake.

This doesn't mean, by the way, that we can leave everything to other people and get on with our lives as usual. We should continue (or start) doing our collective bits - and I try to as much as the next person. I recycle, I've cut my domestic energy use to about 1/3 of what it was, I use public transport when I can and I've only flown once in the last 20 years (care to match me, academics?) We need this as well - but on its own it isn't enough.

So, while I don't deny that the election of President-elect Trump is liable to make things get worse faster, it may just be the wake-up call we need.

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