The Bonn Climate Conference wrapped up last week in Germany. During the United Nations’ annual climate change conference — which was chaired by Fiji, one of the countries expected to be most severely affected by climate change — almost 200 countries met to discuss current efforts to reduce emissions and subdue humans’ effects on the environment worldwide.
Everyone was watching how delegates from the United States might participate in the talks considering President Donald Trump’s anti-environmental stance since assuming office.
Despite Trump’s promises to abandon the climate agreement, his administration did participate in the talks (the U.S. sent 20 delegates this year, though it’s sent over 100 in the past), and were reportedly helpful in talks behind closed doors. In public, however, our delegates, who were interrupted by singing protestors at one point, took a mostly pro-fossil fuel and pro-coal stance, as to be expected.
The Bonn climate talks were meant to be a follow-up to the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015. Countries were meant to fill in some of the blanks and sure up commitments made in Paris two years ago.
The commitments at Paris were to lower greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to stave off a two to three degree Celsius temperature rise which would cause irreversible changes on the planet’s climate. In 2015, 196 countries signed the Paris Agreement, and today, 170 parties have ratified the treaty.
That group of 170, of course, no longer includes the United States, who pulled out earlier this year. President Trump has advocated an “America first” agenda in regards to climate change, and says that finding ways to produce energy from cleaner fossil fuels is best for American workers. Specifically, he wants to take coal out of the ground and clean it. Clean coal is coming back, he says. “We love clean coal, and it’s coming back.”
What does any of this mean exactly? We don’t have any more idea than you do.
What we do know is there’s no such thing as clean coal. The very phrase clean coal doesn’t make sense. Coal is bad for our health, and it is bad for the environment because when you burn it, greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere which trap heat and make the earth hotter.
There is a process, known as carbon capture storage, where coal plants capture carbon dioxide emitted from smokestacks and bury it underground. This is probably what Trump means when he talks about “clean coal.” However, the technology is in its infancy and expensive, and companies have no real incentive to get on board.
Also, Trump’s usage of the term “clean coal” probably has little to do with advances in pollution-reducing technology and more to do with voters who work in the coal industry.
Trump’s ideas about clean energy and humans’ impact on the environment is mostly false, it’s dangerous, but more than anything else, it’s annoying.
The U.S. is the number two emitter in the world, and we’ve been one of the leading countries on climate change since it became a worldwide issue. Yet, the last two weeks we were a non-contributor at the biggest climate conference in the world.
The U.S. has a responsibility to be involved in discussions about climate change, considering the level of our emissions. American companies (except, of course, oil, coal and natural gas companies) are already moving toward cleaner energy because they realize it’s the future. All Trump is doing is delaying our progress.
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