The person who occupies the White House from 2021 could be decisive in the battle to limit Global warming.
Scientists studying climate change believe that the re-election of Donald Trump could make it “impossible” to keep global temperatures under control.
They are concerned that another four years of Trump will “guarantee” the use of fossil fuels for decades to come, by securing and improving infrastructure for oil and gas production rather than phasing them out as environmentalists want.
Joe Biden’s climate plan, the scientists argue, would give the world a chance to fight climate change .
In addition to withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, the international pact designed to prevent dangerous global warming, Trump’s team has worked hard to remove what they see as obstacles to efficient energy production.
Over the past three years, researchers at Columbia University in New York have tracked more than 160 significant setbacks in environmental regulations .
These setbacks cover everything from car fuel standards to methane emissions and light bulbs.
These formalities have occurred as the US is recovering from severe wildfires in the western states. Many scientists have linked these fires to climate change.
So where are we after four years of Donald Trump’s tenure and where are things likely to go after the November 3 election?
What is Trump’s position on climate change?
“Trump believes that regulations are costs and not benefits,” says Professor Michael Gerrard of Columbia University in New York.
“He denies that anthropogenic climate change really exists, or at least that it is bad. He believes that if regulations of all kinds are cut, not only environmental, but also occupational and labor, it will create more jobs, “says Gerrard.
Critics say the rollbacks in environmental regulations are part of an agenda to eliminate any reference to climate change throughout the federal government.
“The Trump administration has gone to great lengths to deny science and denigrate scientists,” says Gina McCarthy, former director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and now president of the National Resources Defense Council.
“They really have done everything humanly possible to try to convince people that what they see, feel and taste is just not happening in front of them,” he adds.
What effect have the setbacks had?
Supporters of President Trump will say that his strong support for fossil fuels has been a success.
Thanks to fracking , the US briefly became the world’s largest oil exporter in late 2019.
Fracking – or hydraulic fracturing – is a set of techniques for recovering oil and gas from shale rock.
But when it comes to coal, the story is different. Despite the government’s efforts to roll back regulations, jobs related to coal mining have continued to decline.
Now there are about 5 , 000 jobs less related to coal when Trump was chosen .
For many of those who support the president, his actions on the climate are consistent with boosting energy production and maintaining the growth of the economy.
Others argue that Trump’s war on environmental regulations has nothing to do with the economy.
“Trump is convinced that climate change is a culture war issue that kindles resentment from his far-right base,” says Paul Bledsoe, who served in the Clinton administration and is now an adviser to the Democratic think tank Progressive Policy Institute. .
“So he sees this as a cultural effort to ignite complaints among his base. It has no other function for him. He doesn’t care about anything else, ”he adds.
What effects will the exit of the Paris Agreement have?
The departure from the Paris Agreement sent a strong message to the rest of the world that the US no longer shared the international consensus on climate change.
In announcing the withdrawal, Trump spoke of renegotiating the agreement, but nothing has come of that idea.
Some observers believe that US actions have made it easier for other nations, such as Brazil and Saudi Arabia, to hamper progress in reducing carbon emissions.
“We are now an outcast, and this is the most shameful and shockingly bad moment I can imagine for America,” says Gina McCarthy.
“And it’s all because we have a president who just doesn’t give a damn about people. He only cares about his own base and how he feeds his own ego, ”he says.
If Joe Biden wins, he is likely to reverse the exit from the Paris Agreement as soon as possible.
Rejoining the pact requires only one month in advance.
Is Trump in tune with his base on climate change?
Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement will take effect on November 4, the day after the election.
However, opinion polls show that a growing number of young Republicans and conservatives are taking a different position than the president on climate change.
But many still support his decision to abandon the Paris pact.
“What I found is that really big and tall goals mean nothing if you don’t have a plan to achieve them,” says Danielle Butcher, who describes herself as a young conservative with the environmental organization American Conservation Coalition.
“We have China saying that they are going to cut their emissions this year. And they are financing coal plants around the world, ”he says. “The Paris Agreement may sound good, but it must be followed, right?”
What happens if Trump is re-elected?
In addition to confirming the US exit from the Paris Agreement, if Trump wins, there will likely be more efforts to increase fossil fuel production. This could have serious consequences for global temperatures.
“The 1.5 ° C temperature target is very difficult to achieve at the moment, although theoretically possible,” says Michael Gerrard.
It refers to one of the objectives of the Paris Agreement: to ensure that the increase in temperatures remains ” well below” 2 ° C compared to the pre-industrial era .
Furthermore, it commits the signatories to “make efforts” to limit this increase to a maximum of 1.5 ° C.
These measures would serve to prevent what scientists consider to be “dangerous and irreversible levels” of climate change.
Two years ago, a scientific review of the target concluded that keeping global temperature rise below this threshold would make a big difference to people and nature, rather than allowing a 2 ° C rise (which had been the threshold for many years).
If Trump is reelected, Professor Gerrard believes that limiting the rise in temperature to 1.5 ° C “will enter the realm of physical impossibility.”
“We would have to wait another four years for another election to try to rectify that. But by then, much more fossil fuel infrastructure will have been secured, and many more greenhouse gases will have gone into the atmosphere. It would be very bad news for the climate, ”he says.
How are US states and cities responding?
In some parts of the US, the White House’s lack of action on climate change has served as a call to action.
For residents of the coastal city of Charleston, South Carolina, weather and rising sea levels are high on the list of political concerns.
Water levels in Charleston Harbor used to rise about an inch every decade, now they rise by that amount every two years.
With a pressing need to install new defenses against the sea, the local authority sued 24 fossil fuel companies for their role in producing carbon linked to rising waters.
“Right now, floods are a problem for 100 days of the year,” said local climate activist Belvin Olasov.
“This situation requires leadership and currently there is a huge vacuum, because of the president we have,” he said.
“So we have a local government facing a giant conglomerate of oil corporations because nothing is being done at the federal level,” he added. “It is an unusual situation that they have pushed us into.”
Many states and regions have forged on climate action, but they have their limits.
For example, trucking is responsible for about a third of America’s carbon emissions, but the federal government sets fuel standards for cars.
While the Obama administration sought to strengthen them significantly, President Trump has softened them.
How is Biden different from Trump?
Joe Biden says his plan for climate change would make the US energy sector carbon free by 2035. This would allow the country to cut its emissions to zero by 2050.
Reaching net zero means that any carbon emitted by industry, transportation, or other sources is balanced by removing an equivalent amount from the atmosphere, for example by planting forests.
Biden has ambitious ideas to revolutionize transportation in the US, using electric vehicles and trains. It also wants to build 1.5 million sustainable homes and housing units.
His plan would not only benefit the US, supporters say, but it would help keep global temperatures low.
“This is the first choice in history that can really determine whether we can prevent runaway climate change,” says Paul Bledsoe.
Joe Biden proposes that the US impose climate change tariffs on nations that do not reduce their emissions. Biden’s international climate plan, if anything, is even more ambitious than his national plan. So the contrast couldn’t be more marked, ”he explains.
Trump has accused his opponent of wanting to ban fracking . But Biden says this practice would continue as the US transitions to a green economy.
The oil and gas boom that started with freight , even in key states like Pennsylvania, means thousands of jobs are at stake.
Candidates are aware of the need to act carefully, regardless of their more general positions on climate change.
What positions do religious groups have on climate change?
Evangelical Christians are among the religious groups that have strongly supported Trump.
Polls show they will likely vote for him again in overwhelming numbers.
But younger members of the faith are less delighted with the president, especially on the issue of climate change.
Emily Robertson is a 21-year-old student at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, and she will vote for the first time in November.
She says that if she could have voted last time, she probably would have voted for Trump, like her parents did.
But her growing awareness on the issue of climate change has persuaded her to vote for Joe Biden this time.
Despite growing recognition of this planetary issue, he believes that the majority of his fellow young Christians will still back Trump.
“On social media platforms, I have seen many young evangelicals move to vote for Biden, but they are in select circles,” he says.
“Honestly, based on some of the people I’ve talked to, even though they care about climate change, I don’t think they care enough to vote for Biden over Trump,” he says.