Ever since Trump became president of the United States, people have been talking about the big red button he might push sooner or later, unleashing a nuclear warfare that may turn out to be World War III or even the end of the world. What people seem to be less concerned about is the big black button of fossil fuels, that he actually started pushing repeatedly as soon as he was sworn into office. Oil pipelines and coal factories are back in business and now the US has backed away from the Paris Agreement, which aimed to reduce global warming.
Luckily, Trump also said that this is not a bad thing. Let me quote:
As the Wall Street Journal wrote this morning: “The reality is that withdrawing is in America’s economic interest and won’t matter much to the climate.” The United States, under the Trump administration, will continue to be the cleanest and most environmentally friendly country on Earth. We’ll be the cleanest. We’re going to have the cleanest air. We’re going to have the cleanest water.
Apart from this being a ridiculous statement since it claims the US will continue to be the cleanest country even though it isn’t the cleanest to begin with, there is some truth to it. This is mostly the case because the agreement is non-binding anyway, meaning that it doesn’t force countries to do one thing or the other. Therefore, backing out of the agreement doesn’t necessarily mean that the US will suddenly increase their emissions instead of decreasing them – especially not if you choose to believe the second part of the quote.
The problem, however, is that it’s hard to actually believe that part. Why back out of a non-binding agreement unless you really, really, don’t agree with it? With a few climate change deniers whispering in Trump’s ear, it’s possible that the US government chooses to work from the stance that fossil fuels aren’t that bad at all and that reducing emissions is not the way to be environmentally clean (i.e. prevent climate change). “We aren’t that bad at all,” the US said, while the rest of the world trembled in fear.
With this being the situation, the US will keep emitting greenhouse gases. The bad thing about that, is that they have the second-highest emissions in the world (after China). If the US would cut down on them by a certain percentage, it would have a much bigger effect on the climate than if, say, the Netherlands would. The good thing, however, is that we can hope for that massive amount of emissions remaining as it is and not getting even worse, meaning that the good effort from the other countries will actually do something. Some people tend to think that “there’s no point in us cutting down on emissions if they don’t do the same”, but that’s simply not true. Even that little bit coming from you is better than nothing.
A little side-note to end with:
Sometimes I feel like it’s funny how badly the human race was able to screw itself over in such a short amount of time. This little blue marble called Earth came into existence about 4500 million years ago (mya), and life was introduced relatively soon after, about 4000 mya. Modern humans, in contrast, have only been around for 200,000 years (0.2 mya, for easier comparison). In that time, they were able to not only drastically grow in number and spread out to every corner of the planet while introducing strange concepts such as culture and technology, but also to pollute almost everything that actually enables their kind to live. Odd creatures, those humans. All we can say is that the planet itself won’t really care: it’ll most likely still be around long after we’re gone.