2016 Election

Opinion: If you feel Obama hasn’t done enough on climate change, just wait until you see a Trump presidency

It is now time for environmentalists to unite around Hillary Clinton and oppose Donald Trump. Photo credit: Barbara Kinney / Hillary For America via Flickr.

By Anders Lorenzen

What was once seen as a joke, it now more and more seems like a real possibility, that Donald Trump could become the 45th President of the United States of America.

This is a prospect we should all be immensely worried about, not least if we care about tackling climate change.

During Obama’s two terms in office, there has been some dissatisfaction among some environmentalists and climate activists. They feel that he has not done enough to tackle climate change. And an even larger chorus is rallying against the Democratic nominee to succeed him, Hillary Clinton. A large proportion of those come from the Bernie Sanders movement. They will either refuse to vote for Clinton and instead vote for the Green Party candidate Jill Stein or even in some extreme cases, vote for Donald Trump.

This is very strange, as Clinton has promised not only to continue Obama’s climate change policies but to build on them and even improve them. Clinton has pledged that she would increase US’s CO2 reduction commitments from 26-28 % by 2025, from 2005 levels to 30%, as well as launching an ambitious clean energy strategy.

When it comes to the US Presidential election, the maths are as simple as the maths of climate change. And if you really truly care about tackling climate change there is only one thing to do, to put your cross at Clinton’s name. The biggest environmental group in the US, the Sierra Club, has made it very simple. They are calling Clinton a climate champion, and Trump a climate disaster. Of course, in the grand scheme of things, she is not a climate champion but compared to Donald Trump she certainly is.

If Trump were to be elected as the next US president, we will have gambled away the one and only chance we have to tackle climate change before it is too late. Climate change is a global problem and it can’t be solved unless we got the US on board. That is why we had an agreement in Paris last year, because of the world’s two largest emitters, China and the US, agreed to a global deal.  A Trump presidency would refuse to comply with the Paris Agreement. He would put oil executives in charge of the country’s energy policies, he would dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), he would remove any US commitments to reduce CO2 emissions and remove any subsidies to clean energy technologies.

In short, whether you agree with the level of ambition or not, all the progress Obama has made during his eight years in office on tackling climate change and promoting clean energy would vanish in a matter of months. We simply can’t afford this if we are to keep temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius.

Bernie Sanders was quite aggressive in his campaign against Clinton unveiling her shortcomings, especially on climate change, but he understands this. That’s why that once he had officially lost the Democratic race, he was quick to endorse Clinton. He knows full well that when it comes to tackling climate change there is no question really, the only option is Clinton.

But other big players on the climate change activist scene have failed at this level. Instead of criticising Trump for his climate denying views, they have gone gung ho for Clinton who actually believes in climate change. Most notable has been the attack on climate change activist and filmmaker, Josh Fox, who has accused Clinton of being a climate denier because she did not want to ban fracking outright. Also, Bill McKibben, the passionate Bernie Sanders campaigner, author and founder of the climate activist campaigning group 350, has stayed silent on the issue and refused to endorse Clinton. But it is not only amongst activists but in the academic world also. Jeffrey Sachs, Professor at Columbia University, who teaches on sustainability issues and climate change, and is a keen climate change advocate. He has during the campaign been attacking Clinton vigorously.

These attacks have not come without an impact. But if Fox, McKibben and Sachs really care about tackling climate change they should join Clinton on the campaign trail today.  If more than half of the US’s eligible voters do not vote for Clinton over Trump, one cannot assume that the public in the country is more concerned about climate change than in the Bush years. Simply put; if Clinton does not get your vote, you just don’t care enough about tackling climate change.

And to use Fox’s words against himself were he to fail to vote for Clinton, it is truly he himself who would be the climate denier.

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