It wasn’t too long ago that Republican presidents cared about the environment. President Roosevelt used his authority to protect wildlife and public lands by creating the United States Forest Service. President Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency. There was once a time when Republicans believed in protecting the environment because it not only meant conserving our resources, but also because it was the right thing to do.
Now, with climate change as an urgent crisis we must confront, the Trump administration needs to recognize the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions before the consequences become permanent.
According to a 2018 report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global temperatures will rise over 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit by as early as 2030. This would lead to the extinction of almost all coral reefs, increased wildfires and heat waves across the world. The interaction between drought, flood and global temperature would make the world’s food supply unstable.
And that’s a best-case scenario.
According to David Wallace-Wells’ article in The Intelligencer, current action on climate change is not enough, and, if we don’t act now, the consequences will be irreversible.
One of the primary reasons for the lack of action on climate change is that some countries fear the economic impact of reforms. Before President Trump withdrew from the Paris Agreement, the U.S. had put about $1 billion, or $9 per capita, into the Green Climate Fund, the financial institution in charge of country contributions to the Paris Climate Agreement.
Although this is a substantial pledge, when adjusted for population sizes, the U.S. ranked 11th among contributing countries. Sweden spent the most at $60 per capita. President Trump also claimed that American GDP would shrink by more than $2 trillion over 10 years if the U.S. kept its pledge under the Paris Climate Agreement.
However, FactCheck.org put the real estimate at over 20 years, with another analysis describing the potential economic impact as “modest,” while the cost of delaying action was “high.”
President Trump needs to understand that the short-term fiscal loss from fulfilling our Green Climate Fund pledge would actually be a long-term investment.
One way President Trump can offset the pledge is by reallocating the military budget. For the next fiscal year, Congress approved $716 billion for defense spending. America’s previously promised pledge to the Green Climate Fund was $3 billion. The U.S. should allocate some of the money from its military budget toward the fund. Even then, our country. would still have enough money left in its defense budget to outspend the next seven highest-spending countries combined.
Simply put, America has more than enough money in its military budget to fulfill its pledge.
The math is simple, but convincing our president isn’t — even with several U.S. government agencies, such as the Pentagon, warning that climate change is a threat to national security.
Even China, which produces 30 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions according to the IPCC, has enacted national policies aimed at curtailing climate change. A recent study by MIT found that if China follows through with its international pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it would also save $339 billion.
If President Trump is serious about climate change, he should bring the U.S. back to the Paris Climate Agreement and fulfill our pledge. He should also enact carbon tax policies designed by recent Nobel-prize winning economists William Nordhaus and Paul Romer. If President Trump implemented these policies, the U.S. would be taking its first steps toward a new era of growth and sustainability.
Going beyond the widespread consensus of the causes and dangers of climate change, this all comes down to what we are willing to do for the future of our planet. Our rich wildlife, our vast oceans, our fellow human beings — these are at stake. Understanding the importance of climate change means fighting for our future.
President Trump needs to take action on climate change now. “Soon” is not enough.