As the so-called Leader of the Free World, U.S. President, Donald Trump, certainly does not seem to mind the costly episodes of embarrassment he attracts. For a position that calls for a high premium of leadership and sound judgment, Trump is yet to realize that the position he holds is not reality television but reality and that he cannot afford to be a mere apprentice.
Among Trump’s latest bouts of embarrassment was the November 3 release of an exhaustive scientific report released by 13 federal agencies in the U.S. that speaks unambiguously about a global problem: human beings are the main cause of global temperature rise which has resulted in the planet experiencing its warmest period in history.
According to the report, average global temperatures have increased 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit over the past 115 years, resulting in record-shattering weather patterns and extreme temperatures. The report concluded that the long-term global warming trend is “unambiguous”, adding that there is “no convincing alternative explanation” that human beings alone are to blame for this phenomenon.
During last year’s elections campaign in the U.S., Trump repeatedly dismissed climate change as a “hoax” trumped up by competitors such as China to put the U.S. at an economic disadvantage. If elected, he promised back then, he would repeal legislation enacted during the Obama administration that sought to reduce the effects of climate change on the environment. True to his word, among his first orders of business as president was to declare that the U.S. would be pulling out of the Paris Agreement that came out of COP 21 in France in 2015.
With COP 23 now underway in Bonn, Germany, the latest report – which has since been downplayed by White House officials – puts the U.S. in an uncomfortable position. With 195 nations still endorsing the Paris Agreement, the U.S. is seen as the red herring to a global crisis for which many nations – rich and poor – are devoting energies, dollars and synergies towards reversing a calamitous trend that has seen protection of the environment taking a back seat to big business’s bottom-line.
The report, known as the National Climate Assessment, is mandated by Congress to be undertaken every four years, and could not have come at a better time, though, as the Trump administration gets a baptism by scientific fire at home mere days before officials head off to Bonn to face down science and those willing to do whatever it takes to cool Planet Earth. But, true to form, sometimes even words at home seem strange, let alone foreign words and jeers. Take, for example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) deleting all references to climate change from its website. Further, the EPA has also barred its scientists from presenting any scientific reports on climate change – even as the consensus proves that climate change does exist.
Trump’s intransigence, to say the least, is not uncharacteristic, though. A cursory look at how he (mis)handled the situation in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria swept through that U.S. territory some weeks ago proves that there is no convincing someone who does not believe in the science of things – not even from American scientists.
For small island developing states (SIDS) such as Saint Lucia and others in the Caribbean, climate change remains a clear and present danger. Thanks to regional bodies like the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), OECS Commission and other regional organizations, the region’s call for recognition that its vulnerability remains high is finally gaining momentum.
More importantly, Saint Lucia’s climate change czar, Dr. James Fletcher, among others, continue to be advocates for keeping the awareness about climate change alive – even as Trump would have preferred that damning National Climate Assessment dead.