If there was a striking theme in the Trump Asian trip, it was a clearly less muscular policy towards China.
U.S. naval patrols to reinforce freedom of navigation rights in the South China Sea were always provocative and appear to have ceased. The U.S. has also withdrawn from the Trans Pacific Partnership now been led by Japan and clearly a trade bulwark against China. It was also opposed by many in the U.S. who considered it a corporate boondoggle.
A deal was signed for the sale of 300 Boeing planes. Yet this mega $37 billion order actually encapsulates mostly old deals. The total goods trade with China in 2016 was $578.6 billion of which U.S. exports totaled $115.8 billion, leaving a massive deficit. The order then is not insignificant but delivery schedules for the 260 narrow and 40-wide bodied planes is stretched through 2020 as was agreed in 2013, and have less impact on a yearly basis.
While the president has been on his trip, another conference arguably of greater importance to the human race has been ongoing in Germany. The climate change 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ran Nov 6-17 at UNFCCC headquarters in Bonn. Approximately 19,000 participants, plus many journalists and other interested people attended.
It has been two years since the Paris Climate Accord, yet as the UN World Meteorological Organization’s flagship Greenhouse Gas Bulletin released October 30, 2017 revealed, average world CO2 levels surged to a modern new high of 403.3 ppm in 2016. The Paris Agreement called for limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, an endeavor that has little chance of success because it turns out emissions are not being reduced enough to achieve this target. Participating countries have to do more to reduce emissions than is presently required of them, and their emission targets have to be revised. So reports the UN Environment Program in its latest (Oct 31, 2017) Emissions Gap Report.
Consequently, at COP23 local and regional leaders have responded and signed the Bonn-Fiji Commitment for faster climate action to help deliver the Paris Accords. Such efforts are increasingly urgent. The challenge for the Conference attendees, both state and non-state participants, including many automobile companies is to cut back on fossil fuel use. Hence their interest in electric cars for example.
Particularly unusual are the numbers representing countries for they are related in part to their fears for the future. In first place is Cote d’Ivoire with 492 followed by Guinea (355), Democratic Republic of Congo (340), Congo (308), Morocco (253) and Germany (230) comprising the top six. Despite the withdrawal from the Paris Accord, the US is there with 48 participants.
There were demonstrations outside meeting venues, exhorting participants to be firmer in their recommendations because of the emissions gap. No global warming deniers among them; these were notable only in their absence.
The deniers may not have been there but it does not stop them from commenting or writing articles. Some common elements are apparent in their efforts — readers please note. First, don’t expect to find any primary sources, links, references. (They are not offered for a simple reason: they do not support denial; instead the facts are the opposite in that observed data is conclusive about global warming). What one finds are references to other deniers and allied think tanks, not infrequently receiving funding from fossil fuel vested interests.
Among the climate change deniers, there are those epitomized by Donald Trump who once famously claimed it was a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese to destroy American manufacturing. His fellow travelers include a Texas Congressman who professes to believe it is caused by clouds. Scott Pruitt, the EPA head claims there is no concrete evidence despite mountains of it collected by departments in his own agency. These people are either influenced by the fossil fuel industry — as in Texas — or by voter constituencies often relying on jobs in coal, oil and gas.
The deniers of warming are always keen to point out Antarctica which underwent an hiatus of sorts. That is now ending as noted in the July 2017 issue of National Geographic. A Delaware-sized iceberg broke off the Larsen C Ice Shelf. And dramatic satellite photos show how a 225 square mile chunk of ice breaks off from the Pine Island ice shelf, which supports a massive glacier. A second rift is forming already.
A second subset in the genre consists of those who may be unsure of global warming but are certain it is not through human action. There is, however, undeniable proof in delta13C negation.
So what can one say to deniers? It’s best to keep it short and simple.
- Increasing CO2 levels are the main cause of climate change.
2. Just about every major international scientific academy endorses it, including the US National Academy of Sciences.
- Measurement of delta13C, a carbon isotope, presents ‘smoking gun’ evidence of human agency. This is because carbon in CO2 released from the burning of fossil fuels has a unique signature through increasingly negative delta13C. Plants have less of the 13C isotope of carbon than that in the atmosphere so that the burning of fossil fuels reduces the isotope in the atmosphere. It is measured as negative delta13C. The more negative the delta13C, as atmospheric CO2 increases, the higher the proportion of carbon from fossil fuels. Since 1980, delta13C has been on a consistent negative slope from -7.5 per mil to a -8.3 per mil in 2012 imputing human hands. Before the Industrial Revolution, it was -6.5 per mil. Put another way, our fingerprints are all over this crime scene.
The Paris Accord now embraces every country except the US which signed under Obama but was withdrawn by Trump. At COP23, there are over 25,000 people with delegates from almost all countries, world leaders including the UN Secretary General, climate scientists, corporate representatives, NGOs, etc. One has to ask President Trump and the deniers, can all these distinguished persons, and all the evidence, be wrong? If not, how beholden are they to the fossil fuel lobby?
Dr Arshad M Khan (http://ofthisandthat.org/index.html) is a former Professor based in the U.S. whose comments over several decades have appeared in a wide-ranging array of print and internet media. His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in the Congressional Record.