Climate change: Killing our world with indifference

That US president Donald Trump seems to have been energised by the opprobrium expressed over his ambivalence on racism is another indication of his lack of character. 

His tacit support for dark, evil forces is of great value in one context, though — it reminds America and the world of how bad things might be, or once were, before values, loosely described as the universal rights of man, shaped the West.

Mr Trump’s ambiguity on racism is, however, far from his greatest crime — his refusal to work with the civilised world on climate change is. In selfish terms, his indulgence of the Neanderthals is essentially an American problem. However, his willful ignorance on climate, and that his position is driven by the extractive industries — “drill, baby, drill”, as his supporters chant — is a far greater threat to humanity than his saber-rattling with North Korea.

The evidence is undeniable, as it has been for decades. The Global Footprint Network (GFN), which calculates sustainability, has published data which shows that if everyone lived like the average American we would need five planets to survive. We cannot be at all sanctimonious. If everyone lived like the average Irish person, we would need four. That this puts us on what might be called the Trump trajectory on climate change is shameful. We are becoming, if we have not already, deaf and blind lemmings. Were we all to live like Chad, Afghanistan, or Cambodia, and what a grim prospect that would be, we might survive with less than one planet. That comparison underlines the bill for our way of life.

Chillingly, the GFN published an even more sobering metric. Less than three weeks ago, on August 2, the Earth hit its sustainability overshoot date for this year. This process measures how, through overfishing, overharvesting forests, overgrazing, and relentless carbon emissions, we have used more than our planet can renew in a year. Just 17 years ago, the deficit date was September 17, showing we have learned nothing. None of the myriad indications showing we are destroying our world have convinced us to change our ways.

Just yesterday, Biodiversity Ireland (BI) published details of species whose populations have collapsed because of human behaviour. BI warns that, of the 40,000 species on this island, 20% are threatened. There has been a 97% decline in curlew numbers in 20 years; only 130 breeding pairs remain. Salmon, a species once so abundant that the numbers were almost beyond comprehension, have declined by 60% in 40 years. European seabird populations are in freefall because, it is believed, they can no longer find food in our plundered seas. How can we continue to ignore these canary-in-the-mine ultimatums from nature?

An outrage being contemplated by Mr Trump is allowing mining and timber industries into national parks. As this is another battlefield in America’s culture wars, opposition is organised. One opponent, Dave Willis of the Soda Mountain Wilderness Council, has advocated that we should “love where you live, defend what you love”. We certainly do the first but the opportunity to do the second is slipping away every day. Our indifference is likely to be fatal.

More on this topic

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