As Europe and Asia are both suffering intense heatwaves now, it appears the extreme weather conditions as a result of global climate change have already become the new norm.
If members of the international community, particularly the United States, don’t take drastic and immediate measures to substantially reduce their carbon dioxide emissions in the coming days in order to achieve the target of limiting the rise in global average temperature to well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the results on mankind can be catastrophic.
In recent years, scientists have already warned of increasingly frequent extreme weather events around the world due to accelerating global warming, and governments across the globe have also gradually become more aware about the gravity of the situation.
It is against this background that the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement were concluded in 1997 and 2015 respectively in a desperate attempt to combat global climate change by laying down a clear set of goals and roadmap on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
Unfortunately, the international campaign in fighting global warming suffered a major setback as US President Donald Trump announced last year that the US will pull out of the Paris Agreement in 2020.
As the world’s second-largest overall carbon dioxide emitter and the largest one per capita, America’s withdrawal from the agreement will have far-reaching implications for the rest of the world. Not only would the efficacy of the agreement be seriously undermined, it could also prompt some other signatories to follow suit and drag their feet in reducing carbon emissions.
To make things worse, in an apparent attempt to please the coal-mining industry, Trump recently eased off environmental restrictions on the sector to allow for continued operation of coal-fired power plants. Meanwhile, he also relaxed regulations on oil drilling on US soil, a move that will mean fossil fuels like oil and coal will continue to remain the country’s main energy source in the days ahead at the expense of the development of cleaner and renewable energy sources such as natural gas and solar power.
As we all know, coal and oil-fired power generation is definitely one of the biggest, if not the biggest, source of greenhouse gas emissions.
With Trump swimming against the global tide and throwing his weight behind the fossil-fuel industry, it will not only increase the amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the US in the medium-to long-term, it may also render international efforts at curbing global warming futile.
Unless the US president immediately reverses his pro-fossil fuel energy policy and starts falling into step with the rest of the world in reducing carbon dioxide emissions, the goal of halting global warming by 2050 will exist on paper only.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug 4
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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