Conservatives elected Trump; now they own climate change
Anyone who voted for Trump shares the responsibility for the climate damages resulting from his presidency
People take part in a protest near the Trump tower, against president-elect Donald Trump, in Chicago, Illinois on 9 November. Photograph: Paul Beaty/AFP/Getty Images
Thursday 10 November 2016 11.00 GMT
Many of us in the United States are in deep shock and despair. The election of Donald Trump speaks of a country and a world that represents so many things that go against our deepest grains. However, as I told my children this morning, the Earth will still turn, the sun will still rise. In fact, a Trump presidency will not have the dire consequences that many of us fear – especially for people like me who will be insulated from his policies. Surely it will change the economics and courts in the US, among other things. But really, all of these are transient.
The one thing that isn’t transient is the impact this will have on climate change. It is now virtually certain the world will not meet any of its climate targets. If Trump (and the Republican-controlled Congress) stand by their pledges, we will see a major rollback of the tremendous progress that has been made on reducing emissions. A Trump presidency will likely set us back at least a decade, perhaps longer. And that is a decade we can’t afford.
The world will blow past the 2C (3.6F) target set in Paris. This means it will be difficult to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.
The election also affects how we should talk about climate change. In the US, and in many other countries, opposing steps to cut carbon pollution has become a litmus test for conservative politicians. So, in this sense, conservatives now own climate change. I can just imagine the slogans, “Climate change, brought to you by your neighborhood conservatives.”
George W Bush was the worst president ever on climate change. Back then, with the reality of climate change not as widely known, it is conceivable to give voters a pass. But not now. Anyone who voted for Trump shares the responsibility for what is now inevitable.
It’s really too bad because many conservatives certainly don’t want to destroy the Earth’s climate. Furthermore, there are some conservatives who do take climate change seriously. However, when a central belief to conservatism results in decades of inaction, it makes it impossible to avoid staring facts in the face.