Climate Change

When Donald Trump was elected as our 45th president, there were a lot of conflicting opinions flying about.  More people attended the Women’s March than the inauguration, and the phrase “This is Not Normal” was gained popularity.  

Women’s March in NYC

At the same time, many Americans were celebrating what they saw as a shake-up in the administration, and an opportunity for change.  Today, we are nearly a year into his administration, and I think it’s important to look at one aspect of American life which has been significantly affected, but infrequently discussed: science.  From climate change to pipelines to opportunities for future scientists, I want this blog to explore the ways in which science and its impacts have been altered during the Trump administration.

“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive”- Donald Trump

Climate change is one of the biggest issues our world needs to tackle in order to become more responsible citizens of this planet.  For a while, it seemed like progress was being made.  The Paris Agreement seeks to bring together every country, all agreeing to significantly reduce carbon emissions within the century.  These changes hoped to limit the global increase in temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius this century.  Sounds great, right?  Until Donald Trump decided to take the United States out of the equation.

“The Paris Climate Accord is simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries…so we’re getting out…I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris ”- Donald Trump

Trump speaks about the Paris Accords

With the United States leaving the deal, other major players, such as China, also expressed interest in leaving the negotiations.  Just because the Paris Accords won’t factor into the policy of our nation as a whole doesn’t mean that no changes will be made.  After Trump referenced Pittsburgh as a reason for leaving the deal, mayor Bill Peduto asserted that the city would be keeping up with goals set by the Paris Accords to reduce their carbon emissions.

“Pittsburgh stands with the world and will follow (the) Paris agreement, … I can assure you that we will follow the guidelines of the Paris agreement for our people, our economy and future”- Bill Peduto

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto

After intense backlash from within the US and globally, Trump posited that there was a possibility of the US rejoining the Paris Accords, but he clarified that this would only happen if it allowed US businesses to remain competitive.

I certainly don’t agree with this withdrawal, but there are pros and cons of both sides.  One thing that has no foreseeable benefit is the removal of information about climate change from government websites.  After Trump’s inauguration, government agencies like the EPA removed pages about climate change, or even the phrase “climate change” was replaced with words like “sustainability” or “resiliency”.  In other cases, websites concerning the subject were taken down entirely.

This is a completely unsustainable way to confront a real, environmental problem.  If there is no information about a topic, especially one which sparks so much discussion, people cannot be expected to make educated decisions or opinions.  Taking away good information from reliable sources like government agencies only fuels the propagation of fake news and rumors, not to mention the fundamental wrongness of this withdrawal of information.

None of these issues are completely clear cut, and they have sparked a lot of debate.  Whether you’re on the side of Trump, or agree more with Peduto, there are pros and cons of each side, but also a lot of aspects to consider.  How has the environment changed so far in this era of populism?  How much more do you think it will change before the end of Trump’s administration? Do you think the Paris Accords will work out?  Will we be a part of that movement?  Will other superpowers, like China, participate?  Will good information on climate change become available as time goes on?  Which should take priority: business or the environment?

For me, I think that the first priority should be taking care of the planet on which we live.  We’re not ready to colonize other planets, so we need to respect our Earth, and protect the environment for future generations.  Big negotiations like the Paris Accords can be stepping stones for global change, and I believe that it is important for the US to set an example in these types of things, rather than dropping out and reneging on our commitments.  In addition, I think it’s almost impossible to improve our nation’s position on and knowledge about climate change and other environmental issues if reliable information from credible sources is not available; the removal from government agencies is disheartening.  It’s crazy to think how much the environment could have changed in less than a year, and due to the contributions of (mostly) one person.

As always, remember, This is Not Normal.

Best,

Natalie

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