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Climate Change 'Trump is on a path to planetary destruction'

In response to Trump, Ireland must increase our ambition on climate action, writes Senator Grace O’Sullivan.

FOR MUCH OF my early life, I was an environmental activist on board several Greenpeace ships, including their flagship – the Rainbow Warrior. I spent my early twenties travelling around the Pacific Ocean, protesting and attempting to disrupt nuclear testing being carried out by the world superpowers.

We visited the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Vanuatu, French Polynesia, and other island nations, who were threatened by the consequences of nuclear weapons testing programmes. These island nations were falling victim to the policies of larger nations such as the USA and France, and the island leaders sought support from the international community to bring an end to nuclear testing.

The superpowers eventually saw the bleak future their actions were leading the world towards, and agreed bans on nuclear weapons testing by the 1990s. Two years ago in Paris, the world came together once again, recognising the looming threat of climate change, and committed to putting the world on a more sustainable course.

The Pacific Islands survived the threat posed by nuclear weapons testing, but they won’t survive climate change.

An incredibly damaging decision

Unless, that is, President Trump is forced to undo his incredibly damaging decision to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Change Agreement, and re-commits to climate action and emission reductions. Already, individual citizens, cities and states in the US are committing to forging ahead with climate action.

The international community has re-committed to the Paris Agreement in response. We can only hope this pressure is brought to bear on Trump.

The threat of climate change can seem abstract to us here in Ireland. It is a slow process, sustained creeping changes over time – changes we hardly notice. They are not dramatic changes, they do not slap you in the face.

Climate change shows itself in changes in the migration patterns of animals, increases in soil temperature, ocean acidity and so on. Unless you’re looking, you won’t notice.

In the Pacific islands, change is a life or death issue

GraceOSullivan Senator O'Sullivan visiting the Marshall Islands while working for Greenpeace in the early 1980s.

For those living in the Pacific Islands however, and indeed other low lying areas around the world, climate change is a life or death issue right now, at this moment. The failure to keep global warming below a 2 degree Celsius increase over pre-industrial levels will literally mean countries are swamped by rising sea levels and wiped off the map. This is the defining global challenge of our time.

Withdrawing the US from the Paris Agreement must be seen for what it is – an act of aggression against future generations and against all other countries committed to tackling climate change. President Trump is willing to imperil us all in the long term, for his own short term ends.

The question must be asked – who is Donald Trump representing? Because he is not representing the long term interests of the US. He is withdrawing the US from their global leadership role, and ensuring that future generations of Americans will be disadvantaged, as the rest of the world build the 21st century, clean, green economy without the US.

This is a regressive move – one that even fossil fuel companies have warned against. It is hard to fathom the senselessness of it all.

A path to planetary destruction

The irony is that as Trump claims he is standing up for American jobs, and workers, his actions are doing the complete opposite. Transitioning to a low-carbon economy offers untold economic and environmental opportunities. It’s the path to building true global sustainability and a fairer, more just economy for all. The US will miss out on those opportunities, and President Trump just doesn’t get it. He’s on a path to planetary destruction.

Even the US security services, hardly known as a progressive force for change, recognise that climate change is the biggest threat to global security in the coming decades. The migration patterns we have seen, with hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and destruction, will continue as areas of the middle east become uninhabitable. The cost of inaction is much greater than the cost of action.

In response to Trump, Ireland must increase our ambition on climate action, and bring that message to the EU. What Angela Merkel said during the week was right – Europe cannot rely on old friends any more. What the new French President, Emmanuel Macron, said yesterday was right. The EU must fill the void in global leadership vacated by the US’s retreat.

There is no better place to start than with climate action here at home.

Senator Grace O’Sullivan is a Green Party Senator from Tramore, Co Waterford. She is an ecologist and lifelong environmental activist.

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Senator Grace O'Sullivan
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