In order to fulfil my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord… – Donald Trump, June 2017
And every time it rains, it rains, pennies from heaven
Don’t you know each cloud contains pennies from heaven
You’ll find your fortune fallin’ all over the town
Be sure that your umbrella is upside down
– Louis Prima, Pennies From Heaven
The great French physiologist, Claude Bernard, stated that in order for biological systems to survive freely, their internal environment must remain constant, by resisting a fluctuating external environment. He wrote, “La fixité du milieu intérieur est la condition de la vie libre” (The stability of the internal environment is the condition for the free life).
What he was describing, is today defined as homeostasis – a state of affairs that is a pre-requisite for any living organism to survive in a state of health. In complex bacterial ecosystems that adhere to hard surfaces, known as biofilms, not only is homeostasis a must for individual bacterial cells, but there must also be homeostasis within the bacterial population as a whole. This equilibrium is only possible if different bacterial species help or complement each other. For example, metabolic products of one species are commonly used by another, to enhance its growth. Another point of interest is that biofilms, as a unit, must be able to adapt to a changing environment, in order to survive.
Whether you like it or not, we all live as a giant biofilm sticking to the surface of our planet, and there is no escaping. Akin to the bacterial biofilms, the waste products of one population, thrown into the environment, will diffuse within the biofilm and have an effect on another population. Similarly, changes in our planet’s environment will have a profound effect on the entire human ecosystem.
Donald Trump’s statement, confirming the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Change Agreement is nothing short of immoral, as well as being completely devoid of scientific reason. His declaration was entirely based on populist economics, describing the Paris deal as “a massive redistribution of US wealth to other countries.” He sees the deal as a coup-monté by other countries, and that ending the US participation in the Green Climate Fund would save billions of dollars.
Trump can say what he wants about China and the usefulness of the Paris agreement. Be that as it may, in chickening out of the accord, the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases is doing nothing to counter climate change. Together with Syria and Nicaragua, the US is the third country not to consider global warming as a serious problem, and not to offer alternative solutions.
What annoys me most is the sheer arrogance of the American president. Here is a man who proudly defends the environmental policies of one of the world’s biggest polluters whilst, at the same time, looking forward to attending the opening of a coal mine.
…a big opening in two weeks, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, so many places. A big opening of a brand, new mine. It’s unheard of. For many, many years that hasn’t happened. They asked me if I’d go. I’m going to try.
In also moaning about the fact that the US coal production will be down by 86% by 2040, Trump confirms his lack of knowledge concerning the direct relationship between the burning of fossil fuels and climate change.
But Trump’s shortcomings go much deeper than a simple lack of knowledge. He also has a lack of morality. His statement centred solely on populist economics.
In short, the agreement doesn’t eliminate coal jobs. It just transfers those jobs out of America and the United States, and ships them to foreign countries. This agreement is less about the climate and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage over the United States.
Trump sees the Paris agreement as “a massive redistribution of US wealth to other countries”, a comment that underscores that he is a true economic nationalist and climate denier. His policies may well “lift millions of America’s poorest workers out of poverty” but, if successful, it will be done at the expense of the environment. In ignoring the call of others and prioritising economics over the environment, Trump has demonstrated a true lack of vision and incapability to reason. Either he knows nothing about climate change, or is ignoring the scientific facts. He is certainly not troubled by the relatively warm sea water that is infiltrating the under-layers of the Antarctica ice sheet, and accelerating its disintegration. At this very moment, a huge ice shelf is threatening to break away from the continent into the sea.
The question of the unfairness of the Paris agreement is unfounded. In accusing the world’s worst polluters, China and India, of having “no meaningful obligations” placed on them by the deal, Trump is ignoring the fact that China is a frontrunner in the fight against climate change. Whilst it is true that China continues building power stations that rely on fossil fuels, most of these will function at about 50% of their capacity, if at all.
In wanting to put “America first”, Trump will no doubt send his country back in history, if all countries participating in the Paris agreement honour – and go beyond – their pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But let us not forget that only half the Americans voted for Donald Trump and, if all goes well, he will only serve one term of office. It is now time for those who do not agree with his backward-looking energy policies, to fight his stance on global warming. Indeed, the US can still somewhat dampen the probable effect that American withdrawal from the Paris agreement will have. Individual cities and big companies may choose not to listen to Trump’s mad rhetoric, and still implement the Paris agreement instead. It is promising to hear that some have already vouched to do so.
The disappointment of Trump’s decision heralds the opportunity for Europe, the EU, and China, to take centre stage in the global fight against climate change. Whilst he was getting ready to pollute the Washington air with empty retrograde rhetoric, the Chinese Premier, Li Keqiang, reassured the world that China would honour its pledge to combat global warming. During his visit to Berlin, he told the press that “China will stand by its responsibilities on climate change.” EU leaders are unanimous in supporting the Paris agreement and French president, Emmanuel Macron, has proposed that France be “a second homeland” for American scientists who see their funding for climate research drastically cut by the Trump administration.
Donald Trump has disappointed the whole world by turning his back on humanity and wisdom. Combating climate change is, in his view, an expensive task paid for by the Americans. He is absolutely right in saying that money doesn’t grow on trees, that pennies don’t fall from heaven, and that jobs need to be protected. What he fails to realise is that renewable energy is getting cheaper by the minute. Furthermore, the new technologies related to climate change are creating jobs.
It is quite obvious that Trump did not proofread his speech, as he appeared surprised every time that he read out a statistic relating to the cost of the Paris agreement. As with all speeches, there is one phrase that stands out above the rest. For me, it is Trump saying that he was “elected to represent Pittsburgh and not Paris.” Was Trump aware that Pittsburgh actually voted for the Democrats, and that Paris just happened to be the capital city where the agreement was signed?
Maybe we could teach Trump a thing or two about attending the beautiful Rose Garden he was in, to make him appreciate the true beauty and value of nature. We could also consider selling his golden tower, the proceeds of which could save the world from global warming, twice over. Maybe Voltaire was right when he wrote, “Il faut cultiver son jardin” (“One must cultivate one’s garden”). For the late French philosopher, André Glucksmann, Candide’s garden is a communal one, belonging to all on earth. It is a tolerant but fragile garden, constantly threatened by the forces of nature. It is not a place for isolationism and bigotry. People in the garden come from the four corners of the globe, each person with his own story and struggle. The garden must be cultivated with care, for it to survive.This, if nothing else, should make the fight against global warming worth paying for, even if the pennies do not come from heaven.