By William S. Becker
The world is waiting to learn whether Donald Trump colluded with Vladimir Putin to win the U.S. presidency two years ago. We don’t have to wait for an investigation, however, to prove another collusion between Trump and Putin. It took place in Poland last weekend in full public view.
The United States and Russia, along with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, threw a monkey wrench into the always delicate international negotiations over climate change. With one simple word, they signaled that they do not accept the latest report from the world’s eminent scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In that report two months ago, the IPCC warned that societies must make profound and rapid changes to avoid a world we will not like.
While all other nations wanted to “welcome” the new report, the newly minted four-nation carbon cartel wanted to use the word “noted”. “Welcome” implies a warm embrace, while “noted” implies a turned-up nose.
It would be easy to read too much into this. It could mean nothing. In international diplomacy, however, nothing means nothing. We may be seeing a break in the unity that was achieved three years ago in Paris. The word flap shows that Trump and Putin still have a relationship, if not a bromance. It confirms that Trump would rather do business with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman than join other leaders in shunning the prince for the grisly murder and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
It also confirms that business — in this case the oil business — means more to Trump than human rights. In regard to global climate change, however, the human-rights issue is vastly larger than it is even in the Khashoggi case. During the climate conference in Poland, Sébastien Duyck, senior attorney at the Center for International Environmental Law, noted “Immediate action is necessary to avoid the suffering of millions of people and the collapse of ecosystems…At a time when every human right is threatened by the accelerating climate crisis, it is unacceptable for negotiators to be backsliding on the promises of the Paris agreement.”
Trump obviously does not agree. His malfeasance is helping to condemn humanity to weather disasters, unprecedented waves of refugees, food and water shortages, and resource conflicts between nations. That’s about as big a violation of human rights as it gets, all for the sake of oil companies that want to make as much money as possible before someone forces them to stop.
Even more worrying, as some analysts suggest, is the possibility that Trump is graduating from mere indifference about climate science to an active effort to break up the global coalition that promised to decarbonize economies.
That foretells a dramatic clash next year between Trump and the next House of Representatives, where Democrats say they plan to put global climate change high on their agenda. They had better prepare to play hardball and to play it well.
As I wrote above, I may be reading too much into the incident in Poland. But it’s very clear that Trump is unphased by the immorality of his inaction on global warming, his rejection of climate science, and his plan to keep the oil flowing. His moral blindness is a big reason that his presidency must come to an abrupt end two years from now.