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16 December, 2018 00:00 00 AM
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The Middle East will be among the first casualties of Trump's climate change denial

Jonathan Gornall

“Welcome” and “note”. Two simple words that, when applied to the deliberations at the UN’s COP24 Climate Change Conference in Poland, could spell disaster for the planet. The chief reason 193 nations have been gathered in Katowice for the past two weeks has been to agree a set of international rules for the implementation of the global commitment to reduce climate-change emissions, made at COP21 in Paris in 2015. But there has been a snag. Four oil-producing nations, led by the US, have declined to welcome the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, preferring instead only to note it.

Published in October, the report warned that while it might just be possible to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, the planet was “already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice”.
It fell to Ralph Regenvanu, the foreign minister of Vanuatu, a Pacific island state already battling rising sea levels, to berate them from the summit stage.
“Whether you welcome, or note, or shamefully ignore the science altogether,” he said, “the fact remains that this is catastrophic for humanity, and party negotiators blocking meaningful progress should have much on their conscience.”
Even as the citizens of the US and other countries around the globe were suffering “the devastating impacts of climate-induced tragedies”, he said, “their professional negotiators are here at COP24 putting red lines through any mention of loss and damage in the Paris guidelines and square brackets around any possibility for truthfully and accurately reporting of progress against humanity’s most existential threat”.
The past two weeks in Poland have exposed serious divisions between the bulk of nations that are concerned about climate change, and ready and willing to do something about it, on the one hand, and the US on the other. Because of its size, America could singlehandedly tip the world into environmental catastrophe and, under the Trump administration, it appears determined to do so.
“We are,” UN Secretary General António Guterres said in his opening statement to the conference, “in deep trouble.” He added that “even as we witness devastating climate impacts causing havoc across the world, we are still not doing enough, nor moving fast enough, to prevent irreversible and catastrophic climate disruption.”
If that wasn’t enough, the wildlife broadcaster Sir David Attenborough warned that “we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale”, and that “the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon”.
Unfortunately for the planet and its inhabitants, not everyone shares his concerns, as became plain when the US delegation to Katowice, including Donald Trump’s adviser on global energy and climate, Wells Griffith, made a presentation promoting the “unapologetic utilisation” of coal, oil and gas.
“I was completely embarrassed to be an American”, one US member of the Climate Action Network told the media. “I can’t believe they are putting profits over the planet, and profits over people.”
On Wednesday, Mr Guterres returned to the conference, urging China to take the initiative in the absence of US leadership. “We’re running out of time,” he said. Failing to act now “would not only be immoral, it would be suicidal.”
But the US administration isn’t even listening to its own experts. Last month, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Global Change Research Program and a dozen other federal agencies produced the Fourth National Climate Assessment, and the news wasn’t good. The impacts of climate change, it said, were “already being felt in communities across the country”.
    
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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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