Jerry Brown, California’s governor, has accused Donald Trump of “gross ignorance” over climate change as he made his most sweeping actions yet to rid the world’s fifth largest economy of fossil fuels, calling for 100% of the state’s electricity to come from carbon-free sources by 2045.Meanwhile, at the United Nations headquarters in New York, Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said that if the world doesn’t change course by 2020, we run the risk of runaway climate change, adding that he was alarmed by the paralysis of world leaders on what he called the “defining issue” of our time. “We are careering towards the edge of the abyss,” Guterres said. “Our fate is in our own hands.”
Guterres, reports the BBC, painted a grim picture of the impacts of climate change that he says have been felt all over the world this year, with heatwaves, wildfires, storms and floods leaving a trail of destruction. Corals are dying, he said, the oceans are becoming more acidic, and there are growing conflicts over dwindling resources. Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are at their highest level in three million years.
Despite the fact that the world agreed on a plan to tackle climate change in Paris in 2015, Guterres said the world is way off track to achieve the modest goals of the pact. Adding that he is committing himself and the UN to the effort of transforming the political landscape to tame the threat of climate change. He pointed to the forthcoming report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on how to keep the world from warming by more that 1.5 degrees C, which he says will be a sobering assessment.
Back in California, Brown, reports The Guardian’s Oliver Milman, says that California was taking the lead globally in confronting an issue that’s an “existential challenge” to the planet and claimed that Trump was the main obstacle to further progress. Brown’s order, which cites “historic droughts, devastating storms, torrential storms, extreme heat … and threats to human health”, requires California pull more greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere than it puts in by 2046, using vegetation and new technologies.
“I don’t believe Trump represents the present but he has the power, he has the Republicans hook, line and sinker,” Brown said. “His unabashed acolytes will follow him over the cliff. Gross ignorance is dangerous. The battle is with Trump – that’s the number one fight. But once he’s out of there, dealing with climate change will still be a fight.”
The Trump administration has sought to dismantle emissions rules for coal-fired power plants and loosen fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks, targeting California’s ability to set stricter vehicle regulations than the rest of the country.
Brown, reports Milman, has set a target of 5 million electric cars on California’s roads but said “at the rate we’re going they will be made by Chinese companies and that will principally be the fault of Donald Trump. The American auto industry is on the chopping block at at the moment he is chopping it into oblivion.”
The vision of carbon neutrality and the banishment of fossil fuels set out by Brown has taken aback even some environmentalists in a state that is a major oil and gas producer, as well as the nation’s agricultural heavyweight.
California will look to soak up carbon through expanded forests, at a time when enormous wildfires are a growing blight on the state, or inject carbon underground or in algal blooms – a technological challenge that has yet to be proven at scale.
The world has the tools, and the ability, said UNs Guterres. Renewables are cost-competitive with coal and oil, he said. By 2030, wind and solar could power more than a third of Europe. But the lack of decisive political leadership was hampering everything, he said.
Calling for global leaders to meet with him at a special summit in New York in September next year, Guterres argued this would give the world the push it needs at a critical moment, coming just before the countries that have signed the Paris agreement will review and increase their commitments to cut carbon.
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