Although the fight between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is really hard, the recent debates about US elections were more than disappointing regarding Climate Change. It is unbelievable that, despite the fanfares about the success of the Paris Agreement, the discussion about the elections in the world’s second-largest emitter, and one of the biggest emitters per head, left Climate Change out of the agenda.
As it was, recently, mentioned by Oliver Milman in The Guardian “Climate change has been the elephant in the room during the past two US presidential debates. Ignoring this issue would be more understandable if this metaphorical pachyderm weren’t about to rampage through the lives of Americans, causing upheaval on a scale not seen since the start of human civilisation”. Kerry Emanuel, a leading climate scientist, commented “I’ve been shocked at the lack of questions on climate change. It really is fiddling while the world burns…It’s like a sort of collective cowardice”. Michael Mann, another prominent climate scientist, added: “One has to wonder if television networks are compromised by the millions of advertising dollars they take from fossil fuel interests.”
But Martin Wolf, a Chief Economics Commentator in Financial Times, in his recent brief Climate change and the risks of denying inconvenient truths provides a deeper explanation about the lack of Climate Change in the US election’s agenda. Given the recent catastrophic events in USA and the whole data sets that demonstrate that things will only go worst, Martin Wolf says “It is a remarkable fact that, given these simple truths, the question of climate change was barely addressed in the US presidential debates. This is not because it cannot matter. It is not because the candidates do not disagree. It is because few wish to think about the implications of these realities”.
I like Martin Wolf’s view on Climate Change denials. As he explains, both candidates feel really inconvenient with the truth that simple, cheap and non-radical solutions will be like aspirin piles for a cancer. Donal Trump is characterised by “Denial major”. That includes the supposition is that doing anything to mitigate climate change must entail massive interference in the market economy and impose large economic costs. The natural conclusion is that the idea of man-made climate change has to be fraudulent because the possibility of its truth is too painful to contemplate.
On the other side, Hillary Clinton is probably characterised by “Denial minor”. “Denial minor” comes from those who recognise the evident dangers but argue that tackling climate change effectively is a relatively low-cost and simple challenge. Even if, as some argue, the technologies needed to sustain economic growth while progressively eliminating carbon emissions are either here or arriving at ever-falling cost, the political, social and economic challenge of delivering a decisive break in these trends is daunting. It is too easy to get away with applauding what are in fact little more than gestures in the direction of tackling climate risks as if they are the real thing.
Well, there is no doubt that Trump will be worst than Hillary Clinton for the Climate Change policies required. But, unfortunately, there is also no doubt that Hillary would boost the radical changes required, in accordance with the great challenges we face. Politically, the Climate Change movement was exiled from the US election agenda.
Maybe, this explains why in Morocco, during the historic first meeting under the Paris agreement, called “COP22”, there is an unprecedented involvement of corporate interests who have fought climate action around the world, funded climate change denial and whose fundamental interest is in extracting and burning as much fossil fuel as possible. As The Guardian recently noted this is a seat for the fossil fuel lobyy in the decision makers table. As a result, representatives of companies such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, Peabody, BP, Shell and RioTinto will have unquestioned access to most discussions in Marrakech, will be called upon for advice and will be walking the corridors and holding private discussions with countries that are trying to move the world to stop consuming the products those companies have based their businesses on. Not that hopeful indeed…