Friday, December 2, 2016

Green gone grey post Nov. 2016 US elections?

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

The UNFCCC - COP22 (Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), held this year in Marrakesh, Morocco, ended on Nov. 7, 2016, just one day before voters elected Mr. Trump as the 45th President of the United States.

During the presidential campaign, President-elect Donald Trump expressed the following position and opinions about climate change:
“I’m not a big believer in man made climate change. There could be some impact, but I don’t believe it’s a devastating impact … I would say that it goes up, it goes down, and I think it’s very much like this over the years. We’ll see what happens. I mean, we’ll see what happens. Maybe you and I – even you, as young as you are – you won’t be around to see. But certainly, climate has changed. You know, they used to call it global warming. They’ve had many different – they call it extreme weather. They always change the name to encapsulate everything.” interview [Miami Herald, 8/11/16]
“This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps, and our GW scientists are stuck in ice.” [Donald Trump Twitter, 1/1/14]
“It's really cold outside, they are calling it a major freeze, weeks ahead of normal. Man, we could use a big fat dose of global warming!” [Donald Trump Twitter, 10/19/15]
“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” [Donald Trump Twitter, 11/6/12]
[Quotes extracted from: League of conservation voters (Oct. 2016) – In their own words – 2016 Presidential candidates on climate change ]

Does this mean that the US is slated to become color-blind, and that the new color green is going to be grey, like the color of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, for the next 4 years? Is this for real?

According to Noam Chomsky, in response to a question on the long-term consequences of a Trump administration:
 “First we have to ask if he means what he is saying... And if he does, then not only we, but the human species is in very deep trouble.”  (Chomsky, 2016)
Indeed… the above-cited President-elect electoral campaign remarks and opinions are not only disturbing, they are backed by an even more unsettling policy agenda which includes such items as: 1. a pledge to revive the US coal industry; 2. a vision of the US as a leader in fossil fuel production with an expansion of both onshore and offshore drilling and, 3. a plan to dismantle, or greatly cut back on the activities of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). All of which arises in direct and complete opposition to internationally binding climate change decisions and agreements. First, beginning in 1994, with the ratification, and quasi-universal acceptance of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), an agreement whose essential goal is to prevent “dangerous human interference with the climate” and that brought together 197 countries party to the Convention.  Secondly, the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 which set internationally binding emissions reduction targets for all the 197 countries party to the UNFCCC.  And finally, in stark denial of the UNFCCC – COP21 - Paris Agreement, ratified on Dec. 12, 2015, and now in force, 113 countries of the 197 Parties to the UNFCCC having already signed the agreement which calls for keeping the rise in global temperatures this century down to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and if possible even down to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

As a result of such denial, responses to the new grey color of climate change have ranged from raw despair, fear and anger on the part of climate change activists, to a more tempered, firm and hopeful response on the part of scientists and current climate change policy makers, who complacently believe that their indisputable data on climate change and global warming will ultimately be recognized --once the new administration is in place.

In other words, and as Chomsky put it, activists definitely believe that the President-elect “means what he says” and that the US is on a new path to opt out of all previous international climate change agreements, whereas scientists and climate change policymakers think the President-elect “can’t possibly be meaning what he says”, considering the amount irrefutable data on global warming, produced by such widely recognized and reputable institutions as: the US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), The World Meteorological Organization, the CNRN - Centre national de recherches météorologiques (France), Environment and Climate change Canada, the UK Met Office, plus many more.

As Daniel Kammen, science envoy for the U.S. State Department, Professor of Energy at the University of California at Berkeley, has responded:
“To be a climate denier in 2016 is to simply ignore science. A businessman is supposed to be flexible and thoughtful about opportunity. Clean energy is an economic boom, and it’s a boom for equity around the planet. And to turn your back on that is to put ideology over simple, good clean energy business and clean energy jobs.” (Democracy Now!, Nov. 15, 2016)
So, at the end of the day, do we, translators, all update our term bases with the term “grey” instead of “green” in reference to technology and patents that seek to both reduce global warming and/or mitigate its effects?

Well, it is perhaps too early to tell, since the US has just entered the transition period between administrations, before the January 20th, 2017 inauguration day. What is certain, however, is that the President-elect’s opinions and remarks are both misguided and the reflection of a true misunderstanding of global warming and climate change. 

Such statements as: “This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps, and our GW scientists are stuck in ice” uncover several important misconceptions of global warming, climate change and the science that drives the interpretation of planetary temperature.  

First, scientists understand climate change as a result of global-warming, and not vice versa. Scientists understand global warming as a phenomenon arising out of the accumulation of greenhouse gases (GHG) such as carbon dioxide (CO2). In other words, it is not the weather that is responsible for global warming, it is our fossil-fuel and heavy emissions industrial activity, and more particularly the industrial activity of the Northern Hemisphere, that is assumed responsible for the accumulation of GHG, which in turn has steadily augmented the temperature of the planet. A record streak of freezing temperatures in New York City, Paris or Vienna will not “cool” our planet, just as a record heat wave in Detroit, Chicago or Southern Europe will not “increase the temperature” of our planet. These exceptional climate events are the consequences, not the cause of global warming, especially when recorded as increasingly frequent phenomena.

The following glossary entry on “Global Warming” extracted from the EPA Student’s guide to Global Warming clearly explains the relationship between global warming and climate change (italics mine):
Global warming: An increase in temperature near the surface of the Earth. Global warming has occurred in the distant past as the result of natural causes. However, the term is most often used to refer to recent and ongoing warming caused by people's activities. Global warming leads to a bigger set of changes referred to as global climate change.  
Secondly, a warmer planet does not mean just warmer weather, it means an increase in the frequency of extreme weather and catastrophic weather events, such as for example, an increase in both the number and intensity of hurricanes arising from the increase in ocean temperature; a record number of tornados, an increase in rainfall and floods by almost 20% in the last century, and an increase in snowfall and resulting damages, pointing to “weather gone-crazy” in the Northern Hemisphere, and to the disappearance of lakes and increased droughts in the non-industrialized Southern Hemisphere generating increased suffering from the resulting shortages of both food and water supplies. However, these points are truly nothing new. This is a message that was already delivered loudly and very clearly in 2006 by Former Vice-President Al Gore in the book and non-fiction documentary titled An inconvenient truth: The planetary emergency of global warming and what we can do about it.

In fact, this message was powerful enough to generate a quasi-universal response, consolidating the action of 197 countries in the fight against global warming and its consequences (Lapowski, 2016). All of which makes the President-elect's remarks all the more disconcerting.

The hope then, as far as translators and interpreters are concerned, is that we might be commissioned to build more communication bridges in educational campaigns designed to gain the support of “climate change deniers”, whose loudest and winning representative is about to take the highest office.

 If the new grey color of green is just a misconception, then there is still a place for reason, and for hope. Indeed, if President-elect Donald Trump really meant what he said when he asserted:
“I think that clean air is a pressing problem. You want to have clean air, clean water. That's very important to me, and I've won many environmental awards. I am not a believer in climate change,’ [Politico, 9/24/15 in League of Conservation Voters, 2016]
then it won’t be too difficult to reconcile the contradiction expressed above, so that green, clean and renewable energy remains the true color of climate change and the fight against global warming. 👠

Al Gore (website)
Chomsky, n. (2016) If Trump becomes president (YouTube recording)
CNRM - Centre national de recherches météorologiques (France)
 Democracy now! (Nov 15, 2016) U.S. State Dept. Science Envoy on Trump's Climate Denialism & Why Sanders Could Have Beaten Him
Environment and Climate Change Canada
EPA-  Environmental Protection Agency - EPA
EPA – Student’s Guide to Global Climate change
Gore, A. (2006) An inconvenient Truth: the Planetary Emergency of global Warming and what we can do about it. New York, NY: Rodale.    
Lapowski, I.  (2016) Ten years after An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore may actually be winning.
League of Conservation Voters (Oct. 2016) – In their own words – 2016  Presidential candidates on climate change 
The World Meteorological Organization
UK Met Office

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