Tump has embraced the isolated voices of the global warming sceptics by pulling the USA out of the Paris climate accord. In his official announcement, Trump expressed a willingness to renegotiate an agreement that “is fair to the US, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers”. His ‘scepticism’ does not, however, arise from sincere concerns for workers, but rather from economic expediency that puts profits before environment and the interests of humanity. After all, the US is the second largest emitter of CO2.
The stated purpose of the agreement is to strengthen international response to climate change. It was agreed that the global temperature rise for this century should be kept well below 2 degrees Celsius above the preindustrial levels, and to fortify the efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. While Trump’s withdrawal is a retrograde step, the Paris climate accord is, like most international agreement, based on voluntary adherence to the Intended National Determined Contributions (INDCs) submitted from 186 countries. This means that the agreement is not legally binding, and there is no means of enforcing the commitment to reduce CO2 emissions.
Climate change experts, like James Hansen of NASA, see the agreement as “a fraud”, a superficiality that fails to address the source of the problem. The agreement is overloaded with platitudes and meaningless promises – meaningless because the problem lies with a system of production that relies excessively on burning fossil fuels, and not with the management of arbitrarily defined levels of carbon emissions. Although increases in carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels has been allegedly reduced from 2.0% in 2013 to 0.4% in 2016, the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is still at a threatening level. However, the major signatories do not wish to change the system, they just want to be seen to be doing something.
The question of climate change is inseparable from broader issues of poverty and development. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, an additional 122 million people, on top of the current 702 million, could be living in extreme poverty worldwide by 2030 as a result of climate change and its impacts on smallholding farmers. Around 80% of the world’s hungry live in areas affected the most by climate change and environmental degradation.
Whilst, the poorest countries emit the least CO2, they are affected by it the most. The poorest countries depend heavily on the agricultural sector for employment and subsistence. Unfortunately, agriculture is also the most sensitive sector to climatic changes. In India, for example, agriculture accounts for 13.7% of GDP, and employs 50% of the total workforce. Climate change induced drought has driven more and more Indian farmers to suicide year after year. In the state of Maharashtra alone, over 3,000 farmers took their own lives in 2015 due to crop failures caused by intense drought.
The threats posed by climate change cannot be solved through voluntary agreements or conventions. This demands a profound system change that puts people, environment and the planet before corporate profits. The Dakota Access Pipeline protests in the US and the Woodburn Forest fracking blockade in County Antrim are examples of at least temporarily successful struggles against environmentally destructive projects pursued by corporations and governments. A struggle for a world where our resources and economy and controlled by the many, and not the few, is needed to end the environmental destruction inherent in capitalism.