By Catherine Brahic
Yesterday US president Donald Trump declared “we’re getting out” of the Paris climate agreement, swiftly followed by a pledge to begin negotiations to re-enter it on “better” terms.
The decision will unavoidably damage businesses and research in the US, as well as the health of its population and its international reputation. But how much damage will it inflict on global efforts to keep warming below 2°C? In short, has Trump doomed us all?
Current political pledges, including US targets set by the last president, Barack Obama, add up to a global temperature rise of 3.6°C. To bring that down to 2°C, global emissions must peak as soon as possible, ideally within the next three years, and cease entirely by 2070. That’s a tall order, but the energy sector and industry more generally have undergone a remarkable transformation in recent years. Best of all, much of it is happening on the international stage, independent of US federal decisions.
First, the dirtiest of fossil fuels – coal – is in decline, most notably in the US and China. As Trump is at pains to point out, the US coal industry is dying; most agree his best efforts are unlikely to reverse that. Coal-fired power stations around the world are being retired at unprecedented rates and in the last few years, the amount of coal mined globally has fallen.
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