Against the backdrop of the gains that last year’s COP 21 Paris accord promises—some of the top emitters of greenhouse gases (GHG) including the US committed to significant cuts in emissions—Donald Trump being elected as the US president would seem like a case of “one step forward, two steps back”. Not only has Trump taken a climate-sceptic position in the past, vowing to dismantle the US’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in “almost every form”, he has also previously said that he would “cancel” the Paris agreement and roll-back the Clean Power Plan (CPP), the domestic regulations to cut emissions. Though he can’t unilaterally stop the CPP that aims to cut US emissions by 32% from the 2005 levels by 2030, if he is able to get support from the Republican-dominated Congress and Senate, this could become a reality sooner than expected. The programme has already been challenged in the courts by 28 states and more than 100 companies, as per the New York Times, and could end up before the Supreme Court as early as next year. So, if the president-elect of the second-largest emitter in the world hits the brakes, the entire climate change mitigation vision collapses.
The strongest sign that the US is headed down that path is Trump picking Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute—who believes human-activity related warming is “modest” and could actually be “beneficial”—to head the transition at the EPA. One estimate pegs US policies to account for about 20% of the expected emission reduction between 2016 and 2030 under the Paris plan. If the new president reverses the country’s stand, the world is in for irreversible and damaging warming.