There has been a lot of controversy hovering over President of the United States Donald Trump. His face has constantly been plastered on our TV screens, newspapers and other media outlets since he declared his interest to become President. An interest he eventually realised.
Unfortunately, the majority of the news concerning Trump that makes the headlines is not always good news.
One of the first things he did after becoming President was to pull America out of the Paris Agreement. An agreement that, as of May 2018, 195 UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) members have signed and 177 members are party to. The long-term goal of this agreement is to keep the annual increase in global average temperature well below 2°C above the pre-industrial level temperatures.
China and the United States happen to be the principal parties to this agreement. Being the biggest polluter, America’s then President, Barack Obama, was the first to sign, followed by China; Buhari also signed in September 2016.
Why the Paris Agreement is so important
The Paris Agreement was a milestone achievement for the world and those fighting to ensure we still have one. The agreement defines a universal, legal framework to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change. It requires all involved to make contributions to climate change mitigation by developing plans on how to make these contributions and communicate their plans to the Secretariat of the convention.
The agreement aims, on the long run, to limit the increase in global warming to 1.5°C, starting in 2020, as well as achieve net-zero emissions in the second half of the century. Another important goal of the agreement is to increase the ability to adapt to the adverse impact of climate change in a manner that does not threaten food production.
Most of the countries that were passionate about the environment attended various meetings over the course of the inception of the agreement because it was clear that if nothing was done to lower global temperature the consequences in the not-distant future would lead many of the vulnerable countries to some severe or catastrophic weather change. So, when Trump as a candidate said, if he became president, he would withdraw from the Paris Agreement deal, some of us did not take him seriously because we were skeptical about him winning the presidency. Our skepticism lingered even after he became President because we thought it would be insane for him to pull out of the deal.
If the United States carries on with its present stand on the Paris Agreement, the rest of the participating countries may need to revisit and renegotiate aspects of the agreement. America played a big role in crafting and pushing forward the agreement and, as of today, global temperatures have continued to rise because of global warming and climate change. The good news is that despite Trump, many states, scores of cities, institutions and companies in the United States of America have pledged to meet or surpass the standards set by President Obama to reduce America’s global warming potential by 26 percent by the year 2025, from their levels in 2005 (https://nyti.ms/2suoYdl).
The science of global warming is now incontrovertible. Trump and the Republican doubters are nothing but clogs in the wheel of change, whose interest only lies in the profits that big businesses will declare for their shareholders even while the Earth fries from their pollution. Island nations and many low-land countries that are below sea level will suffer from severe flooding with the occurrence of coastal disasters and severe weather phenomena. And in the drylands and Sahel regions, there will be desertification and bushfires from rising temperatures and drought.
Here in Nigeria, regions like Benue, Lagos, Asana, Warri, Evet, Port Harcourt, etc, built on floodplains will experience very catastrophic climate disasters.
Some of us remember the first time an atomic bomb was used on Hiroshima, Japan. That was the first time an atomic bomb exploded in any part of the world. The second exploded in Nagasaki three days later. More than 50 years after that devastating incident, the effect it had on climate change and the people of Japan is still very clear today. There was almost another barrage between the Soviet Union and the USA over Cuba but was averted when Nikita Khrushchev, heeding the ultimatum of John F. Kennedy, pulled back the Russian ships laden with nuclear-tipped missiles that were headed for Cuba in 1962.
Why am I mentioning these? I feel the need to remind ourselves of these because, since that time, for more than 50 years, all American Presidents continued to hold Cuba as number one enemy of state, until Obama started the process of normalising the relationship between the US and Cuba. Trump has decided to roll back this agreement too, thereby heating up the world political sphere.
While all these are happening, he is still pursuing his regime change policies in countries like Yemen, Syria, and Venezuela.
Other notable changes Trump has made since being President
1. Pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal: Just recently, Trump decided to pull the US out of the Iran nuclear deal drafted after years of negotiations by the P5+1 countries. This deal so far has been one with the potential of being a model to curb the spread of nuclear weapons anywhere in the world. Trump pulled out of this deal because, according to him, it is “decaying and rotten” and an embarrassment to him as a citizen of the US. Trump vowed to re-impose economic sanctions that were waived when the deal was signed in 2015. Pulling out of the deal, America risks increasing regional tension, enabling the further spread of nuclear weapons and the possibility of another Middle East war, something that Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, desires.
2. Recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel: In a bid to advance the Middle East peace process, as dubious an approach as it sounds, President Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. He has since then relocated the US embassy from Tel-Aviv, the former capital, to Jerusalem. Many world leaders have frowned upon this move citing that the move will constitute a flagrant provocation of Muslims all over the world.
Trump’s policy changes have a tendency to cause a catastrophic ripple effect, if not handled properly. His tactic appears to be using the threat of war to achieve peace or acquiescence. That is bullying. If care is not taken, these policy changes might lead to a third world war, which may leave our world as we know it in ruins. Vulnerable countries, such as Nigeria, will be the biggest losers.
There seems to be the faintest whiff of a link between the Special Counsel Probe of the Russian meddling in the US 2016 election and Trump’s warmongering. Each time the investigation gets uncomfortably close, he ratchets up the rhetoric. As a candidate, he campaigned against everything Obama stood for. Even though such accomplishments were popular, the American people voted Trump to power. We now know that all the US intelligence services have unanimously stated that the Russians swung the election victory to him. Since he was sworn in, he has steadily embarked on dismantling all of Obama’s legacies. Trump has started on a very slippery slope thus. Obama will outlast him politically and every Democrat who succeeds Trump as President will practically erase Trump’s period in office. When will these tit-for-tat stop? Your guess is as good as mine.
The JCPOA heralded the Iran nuclear treaty negotiated by the US, Britain, Russia, China, France, and Germany. With the unilateral abandonment by the US, Trump will have to impose sanctions on Iran and those doing business with Iran. That will pit America against its allies in the West, China, and Russia, all of whom have no desire to see the deal torpedoed. It is highly probable that, if these countries stick together, they will frustrate Trump’s sanctions; then what? Trump may then be forced to go to war to create another batch of dead Americans to whom the US will be grateful for their freedom. The weapons manufacturers and merchants will get richer supplying arms to various factions; Russia, China, and the US will arm opposing sides to the teeth. And the country or region that is the theatre of war gets devastated. Children, women, the aged and the poor will be killed, maimed, and rendered refugees that will be rejected by America, Russia, and China, the very countries that are war-enablers and propagators.
If we are lucky, such sanctions may just necessitate only trade wars with allies, the likes of which will devastate world economies. We already have NAFTA in animated suspension. America’s embargo with Cuba is off and on, in a confused state actually. North Korea has itchy fingers and will love to take on a weakened US. Come June 12, we will see how the battle between the two countries will play if it does. With our history with that date, Nigerians may want to beware. Then what? Will Trump unleash the nuclear weapons he does not understand why they are built if not to be used? Or intimidate all into submission? The last is not a likely option. The world of Donald Trump is chaotic and still not warm enough for him.
Questions for readers:
As part of my effort to engage with the distinguished readers of this column, I have decided to throw some questions out there in hopes of getting some feedback from my loyal readers. All answers should be directed to our email email@example.com, with the subject heading “Answers to latest article”. Looking forward to your responses.
1. Has the increase in temperature got anything to do with the special council probe going on in America?
2. With the trade war, sanctions against Iran, Cuba, what happens if the rest of the global community does not go with America in placing sanctions against these countries?