President-elect struggles to get it right on climate change

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Photo by Darrell Hoemann/

The National Climate Assessment reported that climate change will lead to more prevalent drought and increased temperatures throughout the upcoming century. Here, a storm hangs over a central Illinois field on May 30, 2015.

Dave Dickey

Dave Dickey

Trying to figure out what President-elect Donald Trump will actually do once he takes up shop in the Oval Office in January is like trying to travel where angels fear to tread.

Anyone who claims to know with certainty outside Trump’s tight inner circle of about 10 people is at best speculating.  Of course, when a new president of an opposing party takes power, things will change.  That’s the nature of politics in general and policy in particular.  And there will be winners and losers we will eventually score along either ideological or pocket-book metrics.

But there is one big, even YUGE, issue looming that, if Trump gets wrong, could have irreversible consequences over the long term — not just for the U.S. but planet Earth.

No, I am not talking about nuclear winter.  Rather, I’m pointing at something that campaign Trump called a Chinese conspiracy.  We will soon have a climate change denier in the White House, a man who thinks that humanity spewing carbon emissions into the atmosphere may not be behind the plant’s warming.

Last December, 190 countries including the United States struck a deal to cut carbon emissions between 26 and  28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

Since then, enough nations have ratified the deal to make it effective as of early November.  Not only has Trump said he wants to back out of the Paris agreement, but he also wants to kill President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which would have been the point on the spear to meet the carbon emission reductions laid out in the Paris deal.

Trump has also said he favors increases to the U.S. coal, gas, and oil industries, which could very much add to the world’s carbon emission output.  Needless to say,  alarm bells are sounding all over the world about what Trump’s environmental policies — if realized — could mean to reducing the world’s emissions footprint.

Tea leaf readers are especially concerned about Trump’s selection of Myron Ebell to chair his Environmental Protection Agency transition team.  Let’s not sugar coat it.  Ebell is a vocal climate change contrarian.

Trump will also find numerous willing GOP lawmakers in the House and Senate who have close ties to the fossil-fuel industry and #NeverClimateChange movement.

Still, backing out of Paris accord isn’t an easy task.  The agreement came into legal force on November 4, and the deal’s text says that once a party has joined it — as is the case for America — that nation cannot withdraw for four years.

Still, Trump could withdraw the U.S. in all but name only — by not attending planning meetings, refusing to meet carbon emission targets and withholding its share of financial aid.

Yes, that would amount to breaking international law, but the Paris accord lacks teeth to do anything about it.

Trump could also opt for a splashy accelerated withdrawal of the Paris accord by exiting the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which could be done in a year.

Either way, the impact of a U.S. withdraw could create a cascading domino effect where other developed nations also decide to withhold cash from developing nations to reduce their emissions.

It could also cause some nations to turn back to initial claims that developed nations are responsible for climate change and thus it is there problem to solve.

While many in the anti-climate change crowd will poo-poo me, here’s the thing: Scientists tell us by the droves that climate change is real and the impacts of dumping all the carbon dioxide and other gases into our atmosphere are irreversible.

If nations do nothing,  Earth could be as much as 11 degrees hotter by 2100 when compared to per-industrial revolution temperatures.

Totally ignoring the possibility is akin to playing Russian roulette with humanity.  Except most likely there are six bullets in the six shooter.  Republicans, do you really want to save a few bucks when the future of the planet’s Eco-system could truly be at stake?

About Dave Dickey

Dickey spent nearly 30 years at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s NPR member station WILL-AM 580 where he won a dozen Associated Press awards for his reporting. For the past 13 years, he directed Illinois Public Media’s agriculture programming. His weekly column for Big Ag Watch covers agriculture and related issues including politics, government, environment and labor. Email him at

This column reflects the writer’s own opinions and not those of Big Ag Watch

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